Upstream vs downstream

In traditional water management, innovative arrangements ensure equitable distribution of water. Such arrangements are democratically implemented: the gram sabhas or farmer committees usually approve these plans publicly. The traditional managers play the role of a tribunal authority.

In Almora district, two villages share irrigation water in rotation. Upstream Ladyura and downstream Beyala used to have lots of conflicts over water-sharing. In 1944, the high court ordered that Ladyura would get water from sunrise to sunset and Beyala would get water throughout the night. But Beyala complained that during summer, Ladyura got more water because the days were longer. Later, the villages reached a decision with a water manager's help: these two villages have now settled on a 12-hour rotational sharing of water. Bayala gets the water from 5 pm to 5 am; after this, comes Ladyura's turn.

The job of chowkidar Diwan Singh of Beyala is to acquire guhl water from Ladyura by requesting farmers to block field outlets and let water flow downstream. Residents have formed co-operative farming system where each farmer owns land in different :ras'. Shib Singh Negi, Ladyura's chowkidar, says this arrangement has been in place since 1952, when the gram sabha formed the irrigation committee and handed over the task to the manager.