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Community Participation in Effective Water Resource Management

A Comparative Study in Alwar, Rajasthan

Roopesh Kaushik (kaushik.roopesh86@gmail.com) teaches economics at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur. Binay Kumar Pattnaik (binayiitk@gmail.com) teaches sociology at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. Binayak Rath (brathiitk@gmail.com) teaches economics at IIT Bhubaneswar.

The initiation of the growth process in the rural economy in India, which is predominantly agriculture-based, needs optimum allocation and careful management of scarce water resources for irrigation. Using primary data, the impact of a tripartite institutional framework—comprising a non-governmental organisation, the funding agency, and the people (forming a community-based organisation)—on rural sustainability is examined. Tobit analysis is used to evaluate the impact of participation on rural sustainability. The results establish that community participation is critical in enhancing rural sustainability in terms of managing indigenous water harvesting structures like johads.

In India, the primary sector, comprising agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, and fishing, is the mainstay of the rural economy. Growth in these activities is indispensable for maintaining rural livelihoods. The growth of agriculture depends mainly on the availability and judicious use of water resources, in addition to other inputs. A drastic increase in the demand for water—due to explosive population growth, industrialisation, urbanisation, water-intensive cropping patterns, poor managerial systems, and climate change—has depleted freshwater sources. The need to preserve and manage scarce, depleting water resources is now urgent.

Rural resources like land and water, and other natural resources, need to be developed and managed in a coordinated manner and used optimally for development to be sustainable (Chopra et al 1990). The management of forest wealth needs to improve and its coverage and productivity enhanced. Rural populations have some rights to common property resources; these must be used efficiently and distributed equitably among them. Social institutions like non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can help mitigate problems related to rural resources. Community participation, apart from the work of public and private agents, is an important ingredient of rural sustainable development (Finsterbusch et al 1998).

Geographical and hydrological variations in India are wide. Management of scarce water resources in dry regions has been a major challenge for the government and the people. Water resources are interrelated with other resources and cannot be deemed to constitute an independent element. Therefore, the Government of India (GoI) has been concentrating on watershed management—the sustainable management of land, water, and biomass—to safeguard natural resources and use these productively. When people participate in managing watersheds, the productivity of land, water, and biomass improves, and participating entities experience a sense of responsibility.

The GoI incorporated the need for people’s participation in the public water management system in the Eighth Five Year Plan (1992–97). The National Water Policy (NWP), 2002 emphasised the integration of water and land use policies. Water allocation in an irrigation system should be undertaken with due regard to equity and social justice, and concerted efforts made to fully utilise the irrigation potential created and remove the gap between potential and its utilisation. For this purpose, the command area development approach should be adopted in all irrigation projects.

The NWP has several other important features: participatory approach for water management; comprehensive project appraisal and environment impact assessment studies; regulated exploitation of groundwater resources to ensure social equity and cost-effectiveness; and the utilisation of appropriate irrigation techniques for optimising the efficiency of water use. The private sector is encouraged to participate in developing and managing water resources projects through planning for diverse uses like irrigating the field/farmland, pisciculture, providing water to cattle, etc.

The success of state water policy (Government of Rajasthan 2010), in conformity with national policy, is dependent primarily on the political will to execute the underlying pointers of policy—like conserving rainwater through water harvesting structures, decentralised irrigation systems to benefit small and marginal farmers, recharging groundwater, allocating water equitably, and developing water conservation consciousness—by involving all the stakeholders.

To contextualise efficient water management systems in rural areas and study whether community participation ensures sustainability in developing the target village population, the johad system, an indigenous water harvesting structure, was identified. The direct impact and spillover effect of integrated water resources management (IWRM) practices on the target village population, and the role of two institutional frameworks in water resource management, is studied.

A typical dry region, the Alwar region of Rajasthan practises both tripartite and bipartite institutional arrangements of the integrated watershed management system. The NGO, funding agency, and a community-based organisation form the tripartite institutional framework; the government and panchayat comprise the bipartite system. Chronic water scarcity and prolonged drought in the 1970s turned Alwar into a semi-desert, causing hardship and outmigration. Tarun Bharat Sangh, an NGO led by Rajendra Singh, introduced the johad system to this area (Agrawal and Sunita 1997, 2000). The ecological, economic, and overall sustainability is analysed, as is the direct impact and spillover effects on the environment.

Methodology

This study is based on a socio-economic impact assessment involving (relatively) qualitative and quantitative exercises. The impact of community participation on rural sustainability is predicted by studying 326 sample households from 10 villages in Alwar under tripartite institutional arrangements and 115 households from four villages under bipartite institutional arrangements. The opinions of villagers are ordered on a four-point Likert-type scale. Further composite indexes are constructed by summing the individual scores on relevant question items (Herath 2009). Secondary data were collected from the office of the tehsil and Tarun Bharat Sangh in the study area.

After the indexes are constructed, the study hypotheses are verified by applying Pearson’s correlation coefficient and other parametric tests (t-test, F-test, post hoc analysis, analysis of variance [ANOVA]) and non-parametric tests (chi-squared test).

The Tobit statistical model (McDonald and Moffitt 1980; Long 1997) is used to examine the impact of institution (community participation), household income, and socio-economic status index on different sustainability indices (ecological, economic, and overall). The impact has been measured also on direct impact and spillover indices. The Tobit model has been applied on variable indexes constructed without factor analysis and on other indexes constructed using factor analysis. This is based upon significant factors (identified through loadings) based on maximum variations.

Post-estimation (marginal effects) analysis is also conducted for computing marginal change from mean of the observed variable/indexes (Baum 2006). However, the values of β coefficients are similar. The results of pre-factor Tobit analysis and post-factor Tobit analysis are found to be very close. Factor analysis (principal component method) reduces a set of observable variables in terms of a small number of latent factors. The latent factors determine the values of the observed variables. The tool also avoids the problem of multicollinearity while using factors in a multivariate regression model. Significant factors are retained and insignificant factors dropped.

Under ecological sustainability, 17 variables are considered and four are found to be significant: perenniality of water sources, water table level, soil moisture content in the cultivable land, and soil fertility restoration on cultivable land. Under economic sustainability, 42 variables are considered and six are found to be significant: pulses (yield), non-agricultural employment opportunities (income from agriculture allied activities), electricity consumption shift to pucca (well constructed) house, occupation diversification, and available water resources.

Of the 16 variables under the spillover index, four variables are found to be significant. One is education and three are health-related: annual expenditure on higher education of family children, change in expenditure on healthcare, change in health status, and, annual healthcare expenditure of family members. Of the 11 variables under the direct impact index, only three variables are found to be significant: growth in terms of animal husbandry, particularly cows, buffaloes, and goats. Of the 20 variables under participation, only three variables are identified as crucial: monetary contribution in the conception, formation, and maintenance of watershed development projects.

Hypotheses and Findings

The work took the form of formulating and testing seven hypotheses.

Hypothesis 1: Significant mean differences exist between sustainability indices for villages under bipartite and tripartite institutional arrangements. In India, natural resource management institutions form an important production apparatus and life support system for the country’s rural poor, and they have come under particular scrutiny (Jodha 1986; as cited in Saravanan 2002: 113). But which institutions support economic performance best? That is yet to be understood.

The T-test statistics for the difference among the mean value of all indices—ecological, economic, direct impact index, and spillover index—between bipartite and tripartite institutional frameworks are found to be highly significant (Table 1). This suggests that there is a significant difference in water sector performance in villages having different institutional frameworks. Sustainability indicators along with direct and indirect factors among villages under bipartite and tripartite institutional frameworks are significantly different. Villages under tripartite institutional frameworks have recorded higher values on almost all indices.

To compare villages under bipartite and tripartite institutional arrangements, empirical data are collected from 441 sample households of 14 villages. To gauge the impacts, 104 variables under five indices have been pre-identified. The results establish that community participation enhances rural sustainability in managing indigenous water harvesting structures like johads. Under a tripartite institutional framework, agricultural productivity rose 40%. Before the initiation of the new institution, wheat was not grown in Alwar because it needs some water during the rabi season, but villagers produce wheat now. On-farm employment has risen 50%–60%; in bipartite institutional arrangements, the rise is only 20%–30%.

In villages under tripartite institutional arrangements, outmigration has fallen. More fodder is available in villages under tripartite institutional arrangements, and there has been an increase in the number of livestock—cows, buffaloes, and goats—and in milk production. Changes have been insignificant in villages under bipartite institutional arrangements. Employment, income, consumption, and savings from agricultural and non-agricultural sources have grown much more in villages under the tripartite institutional arrangements than under bipartite institutional arrangements.

High-yielding social organisations are no less important for development than high-yielding crop varieties (Cernea 1991: 26). Intensified human organisation is necessary for intensified agriculture. The tripartite institutional framework is successful in envisaging and realising community participation. Watershed development programmes under bipartite institutional arrangements because of their top-down approach and bureaucratic hurdles (and the absence of people’s participation).

Investing heavily in organisation development efforts, maintaining that many development efforts, and maintaining that many development failures can be averted by pursuing a strategy of investing in organisations, that is, by supporting local and voluntary organisations of resource users, such as water users’ associations. (Cernea 1991: 22–24)

The means of sustainability indices are compared for villages under bipartite and tripartite institutional frameworks (Table 1). Levene’s test rejects the null hypothesis, that is, the variance of the samples is equal in each case (the samples are homogeneous). Thus, conclusions are drawn based on the t-statistics representing the unequal variance. The t-statistics for the differences between the corresponding mean values of each of the indices—ecological sustainability index, economic sustainability index, direct impact index, and spillover index—for the villages under the bipartite and tripartite institutional frameworks were found to be highly significant. This suggests that there exists a significant difference between villages using different institutional frameworks in their water management (on the performances of water harvesting structures). The sustainability indicators—along with the direct impact index and spillover effects index, between villages under the bipartite and tripartite institutional arrangements—were found to be significantly different from each other, and the villages under the tripartite institutional arrangement recorded higher values for all the indices. Figures 1 to 5 (p 55) show the mean differences between bipartite and tripartite institutional frameworks with respect to the ecological sustainability index, economic sustainability index, overall sustainable index, direct impact index, and spillover index.

 

 

Hypothesis 2: Greater the participation of villagers, higher the score on level of ecological sustainability of the IWRM project. The value of correlation coefficient (r) between participation and ecological sustainability is found to be 0.360, which is significant. The value of chi-squared between ecological sustainability and participation level comes out to be 10.833, which is highly significant. This establishes an association between economic sustainability and participation. Besides, the Tobit and marginal effect estimates show positive and significant level of participation index. It was hypothesised that people’s participation would enhance the probability of ecological sustainability. The results of Tobit analysis show the relationship between people’s participation and ecological sustainability (Tables 2 and 3).

Hypothesis 3: Greater the participation of villagers, greater the level of economic sustainability of the IWRM project. The value of chi-squared between economic sustainability and participation comes out to be 29.083 and it is highly significant. This establishes a strong association between economic sustainability and participation. The value of correlation coefficient (r) between participation and economic sustainability is found to be 0.360, which is highly significant.

The value of chi-squared between economic sustainability and participation comes out to be 29.083 and is highly significant. This establishes a strong association between economic sustainability and participation. The Tobit and marginal effects estimates show positive and significant effects for participation and expect the index/variables to increase the probability of economic sustainability. The results of Tobit analysis show the relationship between people’s participation and economic sustainability (Tables 2 and 3).

 

Hypothesis 4: Greater the participation of villagers, higher the score on overall sustainability index of the IWRM project. The value of correlation coefficient (r) between participation and ecological sustainability is found to be 0.342, which is highly significant. The value of chi-squared between ecological sustainability and participation level comes out to be 16.970 and is significant. This establishes an association between overall sustainability and participation level. Besides, the Tobit and marginal effects estimates show positive and significant effects of the levels of participation index. As per the hypothesis, people’s participation improves overall sustainability. The results of Tobit analysis show the relationship between people’s participation and overall sustainability (Tables 2 and 3).

Hypothesis 5: Higher the level of overall sustainability, higher the score on direct impact factors on the target population by the project. The value of correlation coefficient (r) between overall sustainability and direct impact index is found to be 0.018, which is insignificant. Also, the Tobit and marginal effects estimates show that the overall sustainability index does not significantly affect the direct impact index in any manner.

Hypothesis 6: Higher the level of participation by villagers, higher the level of spillover effects of the IWRM on the target population of the villages. The value of correlation coefficient (r) between participation level and spillover effect index is found to be 0.395, which is highly significant. The value of chi-squared between participation and spillover effect index comes out to be 24.684 and is also highly significant. This establishes a strong association between participation level and spillover effect index. Besides, the Tobit estimates show positive and significant effects for levels of participation and spillover effect index. The results of Tobit analysis show the relationship between people’s participation and spillover effects (Tables 2 and 3). This implies that outmigration of the villagers reduced due to the enhancement of agricultural production. Besides household expenditure has been increased and dietary change has been recorded.

Community or people’s participation in watershed development has heralded socio-economic changes in the lives of the people (Gopal and Roy 2005). To be self-sustaining and self-generating, development has to go hand in hand with participation. Rural development and rural welfare are possible only with local initiative and local direction. In the ultimate analysis, it must be an instrument of expression of the local people’s will in regard to the local development (Balwantrai Mehta Committee 1957; Chauhan 1968; Vyasulu and Vyasulu 1999).

An institution or an organisational set-up is a prerequisite for the realisation of a developmental project. The beneficiary or the community on whom the impact of the project is assessed is a part of the institutional framework and should be given due consideration during the designing and implementation of the project. The participation of the beneficiaries in rural developmental programmes delivers efficiency, effectiveness, self-reliance, dissemination, and sustainability. Therefore, it is worthwhile to involve the rural community when initiating any rural developmental project.

Hypothesis 7: The socio-economic status of the population in the target villages plays a significant role in determining the participation level of the IWRM project. Income from agricultural and non-agricultural activities (animal husbandry and others) has been summated to make the variable of income level which, along with variables like education and caste, make the socio-economic status index in our study.

The value of correlation coefficient (r) between socio-economic status and participation level is found to be 0.240, which is highly significant. The value of chi-square between participation and spillover effect index comes out to be 11.923 which is also highly significant. This establishes a strong association between socio-economic status and participation level. Besides, the socio-economic status index is also found to be affecting the participation index significantly (positive). This implies that as socio-economic status of individuals increase they are much more inclined to participate in the management of integrated water resource projects to a certain extent only. This is not a strong correlation. The ANOVA results show the relationship between people’s participation and socio-economic status (Table 4).

Besides this, the F-statistic shows that village type (independent) and dependent factor (index)—participation level, ecological sustainability, economic sustainability, overall sustainability, and socio-economic status—are found to be significant. The F-statistics between socio-economic status (independent variable) and participation level (dependent factor) is also found to be statistically significant. The F-statistics is found to be 68.394 for economic sustainability and village type, 89.099 for overall sustainability and village type, and 14.603 for spillover effect and village type. But the F-statistics for direct impact index and village type is found to be 1.642, which is insignificant.

The significant mean differences among different variable indices are examined by using Tukey test (ANOVA). Based on water availability, villages are categorised into arid, semi-arid, and irrigated, and a set of three hypotheses framed.

Hypothesis 1: In matters of ecological sustainability, significant differences exist between semi-arid and arid villages and between irrigated and arid types. The mean value of ecological sustainability for arid village types is significantly less than that of the semi-arid and irrigated village types.

Hypothesis 2: Significant differences exist among the three types of villages in matters of economic sustainability. The mean value of economic sustainability in semi-arid village type continues to be the highest. The mean values of all the three village types differ significantly from each other; differences are significant between the mean values of semi-arid and arid village types, semi-arid and irrigated village types, and irrigated and arid village types.

Hypothesis 3: In matters of overall sustainability, significant differences exist between semi-arid and arid types and between irrigated and arid types. The mean scores of semi-arid and irrigated village types are not significantly different from each other in matters of overall sustainability, but the mean score of the semi-arid village type continues to be higher than that of the arid village (Table 5).

Conclusions

Villages using tripartite institutional arrangements perform much better on most sustainability indicators than those under bipartite institutional arrangements; post-project differences are found to be drastic, positive transformations. The johad project under tripartite institutional frameworks was found to be greatly successful. Community participation was found to have a significant and positive impact on the ecological sustainability, economic sustainability, direct impact, and spillover indexes. However, direct impact was not found to be higher since the forest officials do not allow villagers to construct pucca houses and detain their animals if found on forested land.

Most governmental community-based watershed programmes under bipartite arrangements have failed, due to their top-down approach and bureaucratic nature, but tribal communities nearby have experienced some development overall. Most of the villagers under bipartite arrangements live in reserve forest areas; they had little access to roads, electricity, or medical facilities. Under tripartite watershed management, agricultural production has increased despite erratic rainfall, and the soil has developed the capability of retaining water.

The NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh has created water harvesting structures with the help of the Meena and Gujar tribal communities and of other social groups and improved agricultural production on community land. Over-use of private wells had drastically reduced the water table in villages, and handpumps did not work; water was supplied by tankers. Water in wells was negligible before the project; now, water is available at 16–17.5 metre. Pisciculture was practised, but on a very small scale. Now, farmers upstream and downstream have a continuous supply of water for irrigation, remarkable for such a semi-arid region, and more food and fodder are available. Migration has stopped, the villagers’ animal wealth has increased, and the community’s standard of living has improved drastically overall. In the Alie, Jirawali, Karoth, and Moonpur villages, the panchayati raj institution has taken the initiative to manage water resources. The bipartite model is an alternative to the tripartite/community-based model of Tarun Bharat Sangh, which constructed the johad (WHS), and was accomplished under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The work of Tarun Bharat Sangh through a tripartite institutional framework is highly appreciable in terms of imparting rural sustainability by mobilising the village community through their participation.

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Updated On : 30th Aug, 2019

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