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Issues in Canal Infrastructure Development and Canal Irrigation Management

The Gujarat government is experimenting with different approaches to develop canal infrastructure and manage canal irrigation below tertiary (minor) canal in the Sardar Sarovar Project. Though the project is based on the principle of participatory irrigation management, hardly any water users' associations have taken over canal management below the level of the minor canal. This study attempts to understand the dynamics of canal irrigation management at the village service area in the absence of proper infrastructure development and institutional arrangements.


Issues in Canal Infrastructure Development and Canal Irrigation Management


Phase I Phase II-A Phase II-B Phase II-C
Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 18, 20073424government or the irrigation agency tooffer a compensation package to farmersfor land acquisition to construct sub-minors,WUAs, SSNNL officials and con-tractors are facing a lot of problems.Though the Nigam has taken a policydecision on devolution of powers to WUAsregarding construction of sub-minors/linkdrains and blind minors (Mimeo, SSNNL,25/6/04), neither the Nigam officials norWUA committees have the legal power toconvince farmers to sacrifice their land forsub-minor construction. Lack of such en-forcement mechanism creates conflictsamongst command area farmers. Verysurprisingly a majority of the member-farmers of these WUAs are not awareabout these frequent policy changes. Thislack of awareness offers scope to irrigationengineers to award the construction con-tract of sub-minors and field drains toprivate contractors on behalf of WUAs.For example, as per the Nigam records, theWUA of Tharvasa minor holds the respon-sibility of sub-minor construction. But ourfocused group discussion with farmers ofthe WUA shows that the committee mem-bers including the chairperson and secre-tary are not even aware that their WUAis empowered to take the decision on sub-minor construction. On behalf of the WUA,the Nigam officials awarded the sub-minorconstruction work to a contractorand informed the WUA that the contractoris going to construct sub-minors and woulddeposit 5 per cent of the contract moneyinto the bank account of the WUA. Thisis a big financial incentive for the WUA.Hence, it agreed to follow the Nigamawarded contract. However, such a recordshows misleading information and it alsoshows lack of transparency in the system.Lack of a proper monitoring mechanismand quality checks result in poor qualityminor canals which keep farmers awayfrom participating in sub-minor construc-tion. For example, the committee membersof Pipaliya village of Vadodara district feltthat since WUAs were not involved inmonitoring the construction of minors,farmers were not taking an interest in thesub-minor construction mainly becauseofpoor quality minor canals. Theyopinedthat joint inspection involvingWUA representatives and SSNNL officersis necessarybefore releasing final paymentto contractors who are entrusted with theconstruction of minor canals. Moreover,they strongly felt that WUAs would haveacted as a verifying agency for minor canalconstructions, which did not happen in thecase of SSP.As per a norm, WUAs are responsiblefor the security of construction materialswhich is laid on the site at the time of sub-minor construction. But owing to a lackof sufficient financial resources, WUAsare not able to appoint security guards tokeep watch on construction materials.Table 2: Status of Sub-Minor Construction in Phase I Command as on July 7, 2004DistrictTalukaConstruction WorkPlannedProgressCCA (Ha)CCA (Ha)VadodaraVadodara, Karjan, Padra, Waghodia,Dabhoi, Sinor,Sankheda, Naswadi359525403BharuchBharuch Vagra Jamusar, Amod282182935NarmadaNandod, Tilakwada2136243PanchmahalHalol3200Total666268581Source:SSNNL, Vadodara, Gujarat.Table 3: VSA Level Progress of Sub-Minor Construction in Study AreaDistrictTalukaBlockStudy VSA NameTotal CCAProgress of CCAEarth Work Length in KmLining Length in KmHaHaHaTotalProgressTotalProgressVadodaraNaswadi3AAnkona149–––––VadodaraWaghodiaNABakrol–––––VadodaraWaghodia10(P–II)Indrad (Amreshwar)3243149.849.609.849.60VadodaraVadodara9B2Itola4605027.206.2527.201.30VadodaraNaswadi3BKothiya209–41.890.0041.89–BharuchBharuch6G2Pipaliya590–15.430.0015.43–VadodaraWaghodia9A2Shankarpura51535021.606.5021.600.19VadodaraDabhoi6BTharvasa22102.401.202.400.00BharuchVagra6G3Vachnad–1532–15.460.0015.46–BharuchVagraNAVahiyal–1NA–––––Source:SSNNL, Vadodara, Gujarat.Table 4: Village Level Progress of Sub-Minor ConstructionVillagesAgreement forLand AcquisitionWork AwardedProgress ofRemarksConstruction offor Constructionto ContractorsSub-MinorSub-Minorsof Sub-MinorsConstructionbetweenSSNNL and WUAAnkonaNoNoYesNCMinor canal is not completedBakrolNoNoYesNCTechnical problems in minor canal constructionIndrad (Amreshwar)YesYesYesCItolaYesYesYesPCTechnical problems in minor canal constructionKothiyaNoNoYesNCConflicting interest between village farmers and rehabilitated familiesPipaliyaNoNoYesNCMinor canal yet to constructShankarpuraNoNoYesNCTechnical problems in minor canal constructionTharvasaUPYesYesUPFarmers are denying to sacrifice their landsVachnadNoNoYesNCVahiyalNoNoNoNCMinor canal is yet to constructNotes:C-Completed, NC-Not completed, PC-Partly completed, UP-Under progress.Source:Field survey, 2004.
Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 18, 20073425Farmers are not ready to contribute any-thing until completion of the canal waterdelivery network and release of canal water.As far as modification in design of sub-minor canals is concerned, it should benoted that the Nigam officials incorporatesuggestions of farmers and WUA repre-sentatives at the time of actual construc-tion of the canal water delivery network.Lined field channels are to be constructedby farmers to draw canal water from sub-minor outlet to farms. However, farmersdo not recognise the need to have linedfield channels. WUAs argue that farmersare used to share earthen field channels forgroundwater irrigation, and hence, thereis no need to construct lined field channelsat this stage and there may not be anyproblem of sharing canal water throughearthen field channels amongst farmersonce lined sub-minors are ready.Construction of link drains and fielddrains is yet to be taken up in a majorityof the command area. Farmers are facinga problem of waterlogging because ofrainfall and canal water overflow owingto an absence of link drains and fielddrains. As a result, farmers could not takeup kharif crops cultivation at many placesonly because of submerged fields. Forexample, many farmers of Itola minor ofVadodara district could not cultivate kharifcrops in 2004 as their fields remainedwaterlogged.Operation and MaintenanceMany branch canals were operated forthe first time after their construction andhence there were problems of breakagesand leakages. O&M of canal system fromthe main canal head regulator to minorcanal head outlet is the responsibility ofthe Nigam. However, the Nigam officialsare facing many problems in upkeeping thesystem due to lack of administrative pow-ers and required financial resources. Toovercome these problems, the Nigam hasintroduced a private contract system forcanal O&M since Kharif 2004 in PhaseIcommand. The contract system involvescanal security, gate operation, canal clean-ing and minor repairing from branch canalto minor canals. Private contractors haveto appoint their own field staff as per thecriteria set out by the Nigam to take careof day to day affairs of canal O&M. But,hardly any farmers of the commandareaknow about this contract system.However,it is felt necessary to continu-ously monitor the performance and progressof the contract system. It is also equallyimportant to regularly monitor and evalu-ate the interrelationship among the Nigam,WUAs and private contractors to makenecessary modifications in the contractsystem.Below the minor canal, VSA-wise cor-pus fund would be generated for O&M ofcanal water delivery network in whichcentral government, state governments andWUAs have to contribute Rs270, Rs270and Rs 60, respectively (Order NoCAD-2004-15-C1, SSNNL, 26/4/04). But, onlyinterest to be accrued on the fund wouldbe utilised for O&M and for other villagelevel development activities as well. Amajority of WUAs are unaware about thisinformation too. Moreover, SSNNL offi-cials insist on 100 per cent membershipof command area beneficiary farmers ifWUAs want to avail benefits of theinstitutionalfinancial support, especiallygovernmentfinance. However, it ispracticallyvery difficult for WUAs tostrictly follow this approach.Work AdministrationSince August 1, 2003, SSNNL hasestablished a separate administrative set-upfor command area development (CAD)work called CAD circle. It holds threemajor responsibilities: construction of sub-minors, recovery of irrigation charges andenergising WUAs. Until separation of theCAD circle, energising WUAs was a partof overall governance structure (personaldiscussion with SSNNL officials,Vadodara). There are 10 divisions in theCAD circle within PhaseI command. Watersupply work is separated out from irriga-tion recovery and it has created a commu-nication gap that leads to poor recovery.For example, the canal circle officialssupply canal water to irrigators, preparelists of irrigators and hand over the liststo CAD staff for recovery. As a result,CAD circle officials do not recognise namesof irrigators and that creates problems inrecovery. According to CAD officials,responsibilities of canal water supply andrecovery should be shouldered by any onecircle in order to have better control overcanal water distribution and delivery, andto bring improvement in recovery. Theofficials felt that besides division of workresponsibilities, lack of sufficient field staffalso leads to poor recovery (Table 5). Forexample, canal irrigation recovery comesdown from 85 per cent in 2002-03 to50per cent in 2003-04. The officials opinedthat there is a need to rethink sharingworkresponsibilities amongst differentdivisionsof SSNNL to make the administrativesystem more effective (personaldiscussionwith SSNNL officials, Vadodara).SSNNL officials are putting in their bestefforts to motivate WUAs to becomefunctional. Spearhead groups comprisingdistrict level representatives from thedepartment of agriculture, department ofhorticulture, Gujarat Agricultural Univer-sity, SSNNL, NGOs, GNFC/GSFC, andWALMI have been formed for PhaseIcommand area development (Circular No.CAD-2003-5-I, SSNNL, 22/8/03). Eachgroup may cover a minimum of 20 WUAsin a taluka. It is mandatory for the officialsto hold monthly meetings with WUAs topersuade farmers about the ultimatebenefitsof the PIM. Officials abide withthe norm and hold meetings with WUAs.The WUA representatives and farmersattend such meetings in the hope of know-ing about the progress of minor canal con-struction. However, it is found that theissues discussed in such meetings areirrelevantto most of the farmers lookingforward to the current stage of canal infra-structure development. For example, weattended one such meeting held on August12, 2004 between a spearhead group ofDabhoi and command area farmers at talukapanchayat building, Naswadi, Narmadadistrict. Approximately 30 WUA repre-sentatives including farmers attended themeeting. The officials simply read the pre-prepared list of works and discussed sec-ond generationissues such as water savingtechnology, judicious and rational use ofwater, post-harvest technology and man-agement, agricultural produce marketing,application of manures and fertilisers,fertiliser and pesticide savings, using bio-fertilisers, crop diversification, etc. Thoughfarmers in principle appreciated the dia-logue on agriculture and related issues,Table 5: Staff Strength of a SubdivisionDesignationsFilledSanc-UptionedPosts PostsDeputy executive engineer11Section officer/assistant engineer3 to 47Work assistant (temporary)2–Driver02Junior clerk02Senior clerk01Technical staff01Total6 to 714Source:Personal discussion with SSNNL official,Bharuch, Gujarat.
Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 18, 20073426they argued that such issues are irrelevantin today’s context owing to the absenceof a water delivery network below theminor head outlet. Farmers informed usthat the officials come with more or lessthe same set of issues for the discussionin every meeting. WUA representativesand farmers are obviously not interestedof taking note of such types of informationat this stage of the canal infrastructuredevelopment.At many places, the Nigam officials onbehalf of WUA have initiated the processof WUA membership fee collection andrecovery of irrigation charges mainly toachieve their targets. In some cases, theofficials have to face the wrath of farmerswho get irritated because of their interfer-ence in the WUAs’ activities. For example,farmers of Vahiyal cooperative of Vagrataluka of Bharuch district have raised astrong objection against the SSNNL offi-cials for acting on behalf of WUA, espe-cially in collecting membership fees andirrigation charges.2 These farmers havealsogiven a written warning to the Nigam fieldstaff to take legal actions against them ifthey do not stop interfering in WUAs’ day-to-day activities. The message is very clearthat WUAs want SSNNL to complete thecanal distribution and delivery networkdown to the farmers’ field before initiatingany dialogue on the aforesaid issues. Con-struction of the canal water delivery networkbelow the minor outlet is the first priorityfor the command area farmers and therearemany problems associated withit. Farm-ers consider these problems as of utmostimportance and first generation issues.The above examples indicate that theNigam officials lack orientation and aproper approach to motivate WUAs. Pre-paring farmers for PIM is not an easy task.It requires planned efforts. Socialmobilisation requires continuous interac-tion with command area farmers to clarifytheir doubts and to develop a thoroughunderstanding about the basic conceptunderlying PIM, and also to identify andunderstand farmers’ constraints during theproject implementation period. Neitherfarmers nor their representatives haveundergone any training programme norexposure visit to receive properorientationand develop a thorough understandingabout PIM.WUA MembershipAs mentioned earlier, SSNNL officialsinsist that WUAs should have 100 per centmembership of their respective commandarea farmers to receive the institutionalfunds for generating a corpus for O&Mof canal systems. But, there are somegenuine problems being faced by WUAsin registering 100 per cent membership.For example, Itola minor WUA ofVadodara district has 100 to 150 absenteebeneficiary farmers (all are non-residentIndians), and many farmers do not culti-vate their land but lease them out to otherfarmers who may not be interested inbecoming members of the WUA. Inanothercase, Kothiya minor WUA ofNarmada district has rehabilitated projectaffected farmer beneficiaries who neitherwant to become members of the WUA norare ready to sacrifice their land for theconstruction of sub-minors. It is observedthat a list of beneficiary farmers is pre-pared based on a number of their landhold-ing plots. Hence, many a time, the nameof a beneficiary farmer is repeated morethan once in the same list of beneficiaryfarmers. For example, the Kothiya WUAbeneficiary list shows 146 farmers, but
Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 18, 20073427there are 94 actual beneficiary farmers.Let us look at some references withregards to the WUA membership. Hooja(2000) recommended that “WUAs shouldhave at least 60 per cent of the area of thecommand and 60 per cent of the farmersrepresented on it with the right of all otherfarmers in the command to join the WUAremaining inalienable”. Prasad (2001) haspointed out that there is a rule to have aminimum of 51 per cent of the membersof canal command before taking over ir-rigation management in Maharashtra. Simi-larly, the development support centre,Ahmedabad, has a booklet of governmentorders on PIM in Gujarat which supporta minimum of 51 per cent membership ofcommand area farmers for IMT. Thesereferences clearly indicate that 100 percent membership should not be insisted onin the SSP.Minor canal-wise WUAs are formedcongruent with the hydraulic system whichdoes not match with the administrativeboundaries of villages. As a result, amajority of WUAs have more than onevillage in their command. Similarly, manyvillages have more than one WUA as twoor more number of minors are crossingthese village agriculture lands. For ex-ample, three minor canals are crossingItola village agricultural land in Vadodaradistrict. As per the SSNNL policy, it iscompulsory for a farmer to become amember of the WUA to avail of the benefitof canal irrigation. Many farmers of avillage possess their agricultural land inmore than one minor and hence they haveto occupy membership from two or moreWUAs. These farmers feel that their time,money and other resources are wasted asthey supposed to repeatedly attend thesame types of meetings, have to paymembership fees to more than one WUAand the like. For example, Vahiyal villagehas four minors. Those farmers whoseland is distributed in all the four minorcanal commands have to take membershipof four WUAs. They are supposed to attendthe PIM-related meetings four times toreceive the same message. Besides time,it increases administrative expenditure andworkload of the irrigation agency andfarmers as well.Problems of AssociationsAccording to a few WUA representa-tives, a larger number of WUAs in a villageinvite political (leadership) problems too.These are some of the major constraintsbeing faced by the command areas farmersin increasing membership of their respec-tive WUAs. There is a need to change thepolicy in favour of farmers. Keeping minorcanal-wise WUAs intact, if two or moreminor canals are crossing a village agri-cultural land then farmers of that villageshould be allowed to occupy membershipin any one WUA provided they purchaseshares based on their total land holdingsize, which is divided into other minorcanal commands of the village. Once afarmer becomes a member of any oneWUA of such a village then s/heshouldbe entitled to avail canal water benefitfrom other minors of the village withouta separate membership. Under the modelvillage project, which was implementedfrom 1994 to 1997 by the Institute of RuralManagement, Anand, in Bidaj village ofKheda district, the Gujarat Water ResourcesDevelopment Corporation changed a policyof creating tubewell wise irrigation coop-erative and allowed farmers to form avillage level irrigation cooperative to take-over four government tubewells [Ballabhet al 2001]. Similarly, there shall be acommon village level WUA which mayconsist of all beneficiary farmers repre-senting different minors of a village. Thiswill save time, money, manpower andotherresources of both farmers as well asthe Nigam officials.Farmers are sceptical about the reliabil-ity and regularity of canal water supplybecause of poor quality of canal construc-tion, especially of minors and breakagesand leakages of these canals. Hence, thoughfarmers know that canal water has startedflowing into the canal system of SSP theyare not responding to the call of eitherWUA representatives or the Nigam offi-cials to become members of the WUA.As per the policy decision of SSNNL,no farmer is allowed to take canal waterunless s/he has WUA membership.Therefore,if a farmer of a canal commandtakes canal water to irrigate his/her fieldwithout occupying membership of WUA,s/he is liable to be penalised with doubledirrigationcharges. However, owing to in-complete canal water delivery networkbelow the minor outlet, the SSNNL is notstrictly following this particular norm forcommand area farmers. But the norm isstrictly applied to non-command farmers.Many such farmers were penalised duringthe first (2002-03) and second (2003-04)irrigationseasons. (Source: SSNNL,Vadodara – personal discussion.)Caste composition and economicconditionof command area villages playa very important role in mobilisingcommandarea farmers as well as otherresources necessary to activate WUAs andto undertake sub-minor construction work.Upper caste dominated and economicallywell-off villages such as Itola (Patels) andVahiyal (Rajputs) could mobilise humanresources and convince command areafarmers of their village to sacrifice theirland for the construction of sub-minors,while backward caste dominated and eco-nomically weak villages such as Tharvasa(Bariya and Patanwari castes belong toBaxipanch), Kothiya (tribes), Ankona(Bhill and Tadvi tribes), Shankarpura(Chauhan and Parmar castes belong to theOBC category) are struggling for sub-minorconstruction and functioning of WUAs.The other example shows that because ofthe presence of the Patel community, theWUA of Kothiya is functioning thoughPatels occupy only three households in thevillage.Each WUA has to open two separatebank accounts: one for depositing sharecapital and transaction of money relatedtoWUA activities, and the other for sub-minor and field channel construction.WUA’s general account has to be openedup in the district central cooperative bankTable 6: Simulation Model of Irrigation Price(All values are in Rupees)YearBase YearPriceIncremental20 Per Cent5 Per CentTotalPer CentPriceIncrement onPriceCess onAdministrativePriceChange OverBase YearIncrementalCharge onLast YearPrice @ 15PriceIncrementalPricePer CentPricePer Annum2002-03150–150.0 –71570.002003-0415022.5172.534921536.942004-0515045.0195.0391024413.372006-0715067.5217.5441127211.542007-0815090.0240.0481230010.342008-09150112.5262.553133289.382009-10150135.0285.057143568.57Note:Base year price and its break-up has been collected from SSNNL, Vadodara.
Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 18, 20073428(DCC) and construction activity relatedaccount has to be opened up in a natio-nalised bank. SSNNL and WUA represen-tatives are joint signatories to a nationalisedbank account while only WUA committeemembers are signatories in the DCC bankaccount for money transaction. It is nor-mally observed that SSNNL officials re-lease payment and maintain books ofaccount related to sub-minor constructionon behalf of WUAs. The WUA represen-tatives are hardly involved in the process.WUAs hold committee meetings as wellasgeneral body meetings as and when re-quired. There is no fixed schedule for themeetings. Abiding by the bylaws of theirrigation cooperative, WUAs hold aannualgeneral body meeting to fulfil theformality.We came to know during our field visitthat all WUAs lack proper information andguidance. Many of them do not havenecessary documents and other records.Barring Itola and Vahiyal minor WUAs,none of the WUAs are undertaking anyactivities other than collection of watercharges. Itola minor WUA has takentheresponsibility of supervising and monitor-ing the sub-minor construction in associa-tion with the Nigam officials. However,itsarea of work is limited to Itola village only.There is an exceptional case. Vahiyalminor-1 WUA of Bharuch district has adynamic chairperson as he himself is anemployee of the Nigam. Though the vil-lage has four WUAs, not a single minoris constructed. Farmers who sacrificed theirland for minor canal construction are stillwaiting for their compensation packages.Nevertheless, Vahiyal minor-1 WUA hasundertaken seed production and seed dis-tribution activities. Farmers of this WUAirrigated their land in the last year by eitherlifting or siphoning canal water from adistributary which is passing through theiradjoining farm. These farmers are regu-larly paying their dues. It is important tonotice that this WUA is recovering anadditional Rs 3 as an administrative chargesover and above Nigam’s irrigation chargefrom its member farmers.Irrigation ManagementUntil the 2004-05 irrigation season, therewas no proper communication systembetween WUAs and the Nigam regardingirrigation indent. Fortunately, in 2004, forthe first time, the Nigam informed allWUAs to submit their irrigation indent byJuly 31 for kharif irrigation. However,farmers were not in a position to submittheir indent for their crop irrigationrequirementsdue to various reasons suchas membership problem, incomplete canaldelivery infrastructure, erratic rainfall,inactive WUAs and the like.The Nigam’s pricing policy says that thecanal water price would increase by 15 percent every year on the base year price ofrabi 2002, i e, Rs 150. It means that Rs22.5per annum would be constantly added tothe base year price. For example, Rs 22.5in the first year, Rs 45 in the second year,Rs 67.5 in the third year and so on. However,the actual price increase in the 2003irrigationseason was more than 35 percent over the previous year. A simulationmodel on irrigation price for the next sevenyears shows that the percentage increasein annual irrigation price would vary fromyear to year (Table 6).The Nigam regularly sends revisedirrigationpricing rates to all WUAs. Untilnow, farmers have not raised any protestagainst the prevailing irrigation pricingpolicy because of under-reporting of canalirrigation. Recording farmers’ irrigation isthe responsibility of the WUAs. However,in absence of their active involvement,recording and reporting of farmers’ areaof irrigation and the number of wateringsare being recorded by the lowest levelNigam officials (work assistants/‘karkoons’). These officials monitor canalirrigation on day-to-day basis. They visitpumping and siphoning sites and inquireabout the names of irrigators, irrigated areaand number of waterings from pumpoperators or other farmers who remainpresent at the time of their visit. The officialshave to rely on farmers’ responses, and incase of some doubts, they contact WUArepresentatives or committee members toverify the received information. There isno other systematic mechanism to validateor cross-check recorded irrigation area andnumbers of watering.Recovery of irrigation charges is largelybased on voluntary involvement of com-mittee members of WUAs. There are noeconomic incentives for them to activelyparticipate in the recovery process and thatleads to poor recovery. Irrigation recoverycomes down from 84 per cent in the firstyear to 55 per cent in the very next year(Table 7). It is a clear indication that ifproper precautions are not taken and ap-propriate policies are not designed at thisstage, then the project would have to suffera huge financial loss and that may createproblems of repair and maintenance of thecanal system in future.Irrigation performance in 2003-04 showsthat out of nine villages, farmers of onlyfive villages could use canal water. If weTable 7: Irrigated Area and Recovery StatusYearStatus as onArea IrrigatedWateringIrrigation ChargesIrrigation ChargesPercentage(Ha)(Ha)to be CollectedCollectedRecovery(Rs)(Rs)2002-031/9/200326839382796043061507426083.972003-044/8/2004300794611311082351608132754.87Source:Vadodara, SSNNL, GujaratTable 8: Irrigation Performance (2003-04)Study VSA NameTotalHectare Watering underTotal BeneficiaryBeneficiaries UsingIrrigationCost of LiftPumpsCCACanal IrrigationFarmersCanal WaterChargesIrrigationOperated(Ha)(Ha)(Numbers)(Numbers)(Rs)(Rs/Acre)(Numbers)Ankona149–142––––Indrad (Amreshwar)32430.11180236236––Itola460–513––––Kothiya20996.451466020641600New 3, Old 2Pipaliya59019.20673204108––Shankarpura515–481––––Tharvasa22117.92253203952400 to 480New 4Vachnad–1532–266––––VahiyalNA117.55NA3425164NANASource: SSNNL, Vadodara, Gujarat.

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