International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID)
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Population (8 hits),

Full Submission



To The Preparatory Committee of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 2012 (RIO+20) -------------------


This submission is a contribution to the preparatory process of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, scheduled to be held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil from 4-6 June 2012 (Rio+20) . The contribution is submitted to the Preparatory Committee established by the UN General Assembly, through its Secretariat, in response to an open invitation by the Committee to all relevant stakeholders to submit their inputs by 1st November 2011 for preparing the draft outcome document for the UNCSD.

The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID)

The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) is the leading scientific, technical, professional and not-for-profit Non-Governmental International Organisation (NGO) in the fields of irrigation, drainage and flood management. It draws together the diverse disciplines and professions involved in the planning, design, operation, management and development of irrigation, drainage and flood management works throughout the world. The Commission, with active support from a network of nearly 110 member countries, provides an international forum and network in which the technical, agronomic, socio-economic, environmental and managerial complexities involved in the development, management and operation of irrigation, drainage and flood control works are discussed. Improved practices are identified and promoted through the National Committees in the member countries.

The ICID?s vision is for a world that is food secure by ensuring adequate water for food following best agricultural water management practices.

While the main focus on best irrigation and drainage practices remains in the fore, risk management by addressing concerned issues like drought and floods in a climate change scenario is also on the top of agenda. Given the new situation wherein some external drivers impact some of the above actions, ICID had started addressing these issues also. These inter-alia include Poverty elimination, rural livelihood, Bio Energy, Enhancing Storage under the changing Climate scenario, MDG, waster water reuses etc., to quote a few.

1. Sustainable Development and Poverty reduction

Multiple global crises have undermined the progress towards sustainable development and poverty alleviation efforts in the last 20 years. Implementation of Agenda 21 has been slack and has failed to avert the food crisis and thousands of deaths due to famine. The global Population is expected to be over 9 billion by 2050 and they have to be provided for food and means of livelihood. There is increasing need to innovate in agriculture and food production in order to respond to this and other challenges posed by, inter alia, climate change, urbanization and globalization.

Directly or indirectly, agriculture provides the livelihood for 70 percent of the world's poor. Dependent on rainfed production in an increasingly variable and unreliable natural environment communities are faced with regular drought and yield losses. Locked into a scenario where spatial expansion of a household?s agricultural production area, due to dense Population patterns, is not possible any more, a more intensive use of their assets i.e. land and labor might therefore be a way forward.

Lack of access by the poor to adequate, safe and reliable supplies of water limits their options to improve their livelihoods. Water availability being variable in space and time; the rural well being is intimately dependent on its supply, use, disposal and reuse. Impact of climate change, on the agricultural production on one hand, and the hydrological regimes that directly impacts the production methods due to reduced water availability and precipitation variability, on the other, will undermine the rural income base. This loss of income will be further exacerbated by the need for increased spending as a result of damage caused by extreme weather events. Broad-based water resources interventions such as major infrastructure provide national, regional, and local benefits from which all people, including the poor; can gain (Camdessus, 2003). Effective water resources development and management, therefore, are basic to sustainable growth and poverty reduction, in several ways.

Poverty alleviation is therefore closely linked to agriculture and water security and how climate change impacts on the two are dealt with by the international community, particularly in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable.

2. Agriculture and Food Security

Food security is a complex issue that requires complex solutions. The food security concept has evolved over the years and is presently focused on ensuring food access, its utilization, stability of the access and food availability through domestic production and import (FAO 2002). In the recent times it has been proven time and again that production both at international level as well as at domestic level needs to be assured, one cannot be sacrificed at the cost of the other. Countries that import large amounts of food will be very vulnerable to increased food prices. Therefore increased food production has to be supported more equitably, particularly in large parts of Africa. Globally, 70% more food will need to be produced to satisfy the growing demand.

Malthusian specter of a world running out of food, originally premised on satiating the demon of an exploding Population now includes the livestock revolution, and most recently bio-fuels. Yet since the 1960s, the global application of science to food production has maintained a strong track record of staying ahead of these demands. Looking to 2050,, demons such as water and land scarcity and climate change raises the specter once again. Considering what is in the technology pipeline, the new funding mechanism to support the small farm financing one can be cautiously optimistic about the ability of world to feed itself to 2050. But cautiously indeed!

Starting in the1960s, the Green Revolution increased the global food production dramatically based on the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. Some of these tools may no longer be acceptable, while the success of others such as hybridized seed varieties depend on assured water supply through irrigation. Despite impressive gains in yields over the past 50 years in most of the world, large and economically exploitable yield gaps remain in many places, especially in the developing world and nowhere more so than in sub-Saharan Africa where food supply is the most precarious.

Producing more food will largely depend on increasing crop yields, not farming more land. Further, most of the food production in the Asian region comes from smallholders, part of the poorest segment of the Population and most vulnerable to climate risks. The challenge is particularly daunting in Africa, where prospects are good, resources abundant but there is need for a paradigm policy shift, particularly in terms of financing infrastructure related to irrigation. Africa has yet to experience a green revolution in a sustained manner. The New Partnership for Africa?s Development (NEPAD, 2001) sees support focusing on sustainable land management and water utilization through small-scale irrigation (SSI) as an important element of a broader development strategy for Africa.

The gravity of the current food crisis is the result of 20 years of under-investment in agriculture and neglect of the sector even though agriculture accounts for a third of GDP and two thirds of employment in many developing countries. Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome hunger and poverty and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth. Net investments of US$83 billion a year must be made in agriculture in developing countries if there is to be enough food for 9.1 billion people in 2050.

3. Water Security

Water is crucial for food security and human well-being. Enhancing the food productivity targets have to go hand in hand with increased land and water productivity. Scarcity of and competition over freshwater is a growing concern for many regions in the world. Climate change will exacerbate water stress and other problems. It simply offsets the climatic risk that rainfed production would otherwise be exposed to but also makes possible the cultivation of a range of exotic crops that would not otherwise survive under rainfed conditions ? notably horticultural products. Water security is, therefore, a pre-condition for increasing agricultural productivity and should form intrinsic part of an effective poverty reduction strategy. A water-secure world means a better quality of life.

Fresh-water is finite and is significantly unevenly distributed in time and space determined by the hydro-climatological conditions of a region. Although the global average annual water availability per capita in 2025 will be 4800 m3, due to the uneven distribution of water resources, some 3 billion people will live in countries - wholly or partly arid or semi-arid having less than 1700 m3 per capita water availability. In 1990, eighteen countries in the world were ?severely water scarce? , a number that could swell to 30 by the year 2025. Most of these are located in Asia and Africa that are also facing food shortages. Further, there are 12 countries with availability less than 500 m3. This number too is likely to increase to 19 by 2025. More than 1 billion people including one third of the Population of China and India live in arid regions facing water scarcity. Similarly, 350 million people mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa face severe scarcity, and can't do without embarking upon massive water development projects to meet with their water needs.

The essence of water security combines the concern for the resource base coupled with concern for their quality. Services which exploit the resource base for agriculture and other economic enterprise should be developed and managed in an equitable, efficient and integrated manner. Achieving water security thus requires cooperation between different kinds of water users, and between those sharing river basins and aquifers, within a framework that allows for the protection of vital eco-systems from pollution and sustainability of the environmental services that are so crucial for rural livelihood and health.

Climate change is expected to alter hydrological regimes and the patterns of freshwater resources availability (IPCC 2008). Reduced rainfall and higher evapotranspiration are projected over the next three decades for many semi-arid areas, and drought-affected areas are likely to increase in extent with climate change. Changes in temperature, rainfall and evaporation determine the basic agro-ecological zoning which set the spatial limits to plant growth. Worldwide, this is expected to result in a decline in food production unless suitable technologies and management are developed and provided to the agricultural sector.

Water security requires tackling the extremes: too little water and too much of water. Climate variability is likely to increase with climate change. The combined effect of a change in climate and an increase in variability will result in more frequent and larger flood and drought impacts. More often these extremes produce destructive effects in terms of floods and droughts. Combination of long-term changes and the greater frequency of extreme weather events is likely to have adverse impacts on the agricultural sector. Drought and water scarcity affect the availability of food to some 600 million people of the arid and semi arid tropics of Africa and Asia and parts of Latin America.

Floods can pose taxing hazards to human lives and property, but in many parts of the world societies are increasingly taking advantage of river basins and other flooding-prone areas as vehicles for development. Accordingly, societies are more and more willing to assume the risk of coexisting with flooding, an approach which also lends itself readily to the participative themes of risk management, vulnerability and capacity building as an integrated approach to flood management (WMO 2009).

4. Sustainable food production and rural development: role of irrigation

Agriculture is by far the largest user of water. Irrigated agriculture provides 40% of world?s food production from 17% of cultivated land. In regions of water shortage, yield of irrigated land often is more than 2 to 3 times that of rainfed agriculture. Even in temperate and humid zones, with the timely irrigation during critical periods of growth, yield of crops may double or even treble. In case of rainfed cropped areas, if assured or even supplemental irrigation is provided, it can make significant contribution to food production. Irrigation increases productivity and value of land, which brings prosperity.

Water is used in agriculture in a great variety of situations, drawn from variety of sources and applied through various means. The spectrum covers individual efforts spanning from the small scale irrigation through groundwater abstraction, on-farm rainwater harvesting to community based tank irrigation and covers more extensive large public irrigation command areas. Aside from large public funded irrigation schemes, a major part of the sector consists of privately-financed tube wells using groundwater. Small scale irrigation is of increasing importance for smallholder farming systems in developing countries particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and contributes to the increase of agricultural incomes, employment and reduction of poverty and malnutrition.

Irrigation serves as an important preventive tool in climate risk management that mitigates the impacts of droughts, increasing resilience of the framers to extreme weather thereby reducing the risks in agricultural production through:

(i) intensification and diversification of the farming system

(ii) improving significantly agricultural productivity by reducing the effects of seasonality; and

(iii) enabling farmers to cultivate crops with diverse vegetation periods.

Lack of assured irrigation results in unsatisfactory agriculture returns, breeding the tendency to switch over to non-agricultural occupations resulting in migration to urban areas in search of better employment. Irrigation while reversing this trend, plays a major role in poverty alleviation and builds resilience of rural people against natural disasters like droughts and famines. The poor landless segments of the communities served with irrigation have better employment opportunities in construction and maintenance works of irrigation schemes.

Irrigation and drainage schemes not only play a critical role in increasing crop yield and improving rural household income, but also help in accelerating the pace of development of rural infrastructure through improved communications and road systems, better healthcare, education facilities for rural communities. Irrigation canals often serve as the only source of potable drinking water for the rural areas of the developing world. The increased agricultural production and overall infrastructural improvements act as powerful magnets to attract investments in rural agro-based industries.

Historically, irrigation project plans have not given sufficient consideration to their environmental impacts. Additionally, the potential gains from irrigation are far from being realized optimally due to a variety of interconnected reasons such as: sub-standard design and construction; under-investment in infrastructure; poor canal management; inadequate investment in running and maintenance; poor crop production techniques and agricultural services; poor land and water management at farm level; poor coordination between agriculture scientists and water managers. Due to these and the sub optimal participation of farmers in the management of irrigation there are some adverse environmental impacts of irrigation. One of the most evident adverse impacts of irrigation development is the creation of water logged and salinated land. Subsurface drainage, an effective tool to combat this twin problem and increase the sustainability of irrigated agriculture, has attracted inadequate attention. Despite these shortcomings irrigation is likely to remain a keystone of food security policies and therefore all efforts should be made to overcome these shortcomings.

More resilient farming practices, irrigation services and adapted infrastructure are needed to cope with increasing climate variability and water scarcity situation. Investments in water storage, water harvesting and introduction of water saving technologies are required to improve food production in water scarce regions.

5. Irrigation as a tool to support Green Economy

Green economy is defined (UNEP, 2011, (1)) as the one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities (Ref UNEP). It is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive which lays the path to sustainable development and poverty alleviation by way of pursuing opportunities to invest in sectors that rely on use of natural resources. The move towards a green economy aims to increase access to basic services and infrastructure as a means of alleviating poverty and improving overall quality of life. However, the present literature has failed to fully appreciate the role of irrigation in Green Economy (UNEP, 2011 (2)).

Presently, irrigation covers more than 260 million hectares i.e. about 17% of world?s arable land, but is responsible for around 40% of crop output and employs nearly 30% of Population spread over rural areas. It uses about 70% of waters withdrawn from global river systems, 60% of which gets used consumptively, the rest predominantly returning to the river systems enabling its reuse downstream. Irrigation is a time tested and effective tool for creating rural livelihood, uses natural renewable resources, is a proactive means for reducing vulnerability against droughts and thus forms a crucial area for investment within green economies. Further, the role of irrigation both in ensuring water supplies, maintaining and restoring, wherever possible, biodiversity and ecosystem services, needs to be recognized.

In the coming decades feeding the growing world Population and meeting the increasing demand for bio-fuel will call for increased output from both irrigated and rainfed agriculture. Some of this will come from an increase in the irrigated acreage, though the scope for this will be much more limited than in the past. The larger part of extra output will have to come from the more efficient use of water resources already being exploited, epitomised in the slogan more crop per drop, while restricting use of fossil fuel based energy.

Good infrastructure helps improve the land productivity. Like any socio-economic activity utilising finite natural resources, growth and sustained yield from agriculture per unit of water and land, calls for adequate financial and human investments. Water service interventions (such as water and sanitation and irrigation services for the unserved poor) play a major role in reaching some of the MDGs (Camdessus, 2003).

In certain cases, past success in irrigation has in a sense been achieved by mining of non-renewable resources underground water using fossil energy. Where groundwater is used for irrigation, the fossil energy costs of supply may be high. Energy consumption for groundwater irrigation is a regionally important and significant quantum in India and China. Better environmental management in catchments, rivers and irrigation areas with minimal use of fossil fuels is necessary for water security and sustainable food production and achieving the objectives of Green Economy.

Irrigation policies that are broad based and follow the principles of equity, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability as envisaged in the Dublin principles (ICWE, 1992) of Integrated Water Resources Management and support both the adaptation as well as mitigation efforts need to be developed. An integrated approach through a mix of irrigation sources, scales of interventions, means of applications based on the local hydro-climatic situation would serve the objectives of Green Economy.

Adaptation strategies targeted at food security may actually include i) the re-allocation of water away from the agricultural sector in order to maintain or supplement environmental stream flows thereby supporting other forms of water dependent livelihood or economic activities; or ii) the capping of spatial expansion of irrigated areas where water savings are achieved to reduce overall demand.

6. Resurrecting irrigation to support Green Economies

The International Commission on Irrigation and drainage has deliberated on these issues (ICID, 2008; ICID, 2009; ICID, 2010; ICID, 2011) at length and urges the international community to resurrect irrigation and drainage to ensure water security, achieve food security and facilitate climate change adaptation and mitigation and pave the way for green economy as a pathway to sustainable development and poverty eradication. ICID has been urging the governments and the international community that:

? There is an urgent need for implementing various strategies and measures to boost agricultural production utilizing the available water and land resources with the highest efficiency possible with due consideration to the social, economic and ecological factors.

? Rainfed agriculture, which continues to perform below its potential needs to be supported to enhance food security and ecosystems sustainability. Impacts of climate change and droughts on rainfed agriculture requires greater support to research and capacity building in rainfed agriculture, especially for understanding the impacts and developing adaptation options, in addition to optimizing water management.

? Recognizing the enormous challenges and complex issues facing the irrigation sector, increased investment both from public and private sources both for expansion of irrigation area as well as for modernizing existing infrastructure are needed.

? Storage, both natural and in reservoirs, supported by improvement in management of stored water is key to reducing uncertainty and risks associated with rain fed agriculture to address the challenges at the interface of water, land, livelihoods, and the environment.

? The potential of micro-irrigation technology for saving water through precise delivery of water and fertilizer to crops and to raise farm incomes needs to be further exploited. Inexpensive small-scale versions of this technology can be used on the smallest of land holdings, making the benefits available to the poorest smallholders.

? Rehabilitation and modernization of irrigation system using an integrated and participatory approach can raise agricultural productivity significantly, often without increasing the total use of water, and is addressing that need.

? Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) with well introduced reforms can enhance irrigation performance. National and regional governments and donor agencies are urged to support PIM, and encourage reforms by mobilizing financial and technical sources. There is a need to make Water User Associations (WUAs) economically sound and legally empowered.

? Enhanced support is needed for applied research and development, capacity building at the farm level, improved extension services in the dissemination of technology/information/ knowledge among all stakeholders, especially farmers to promote best agricultural technologies and their dissemination.

? An integrated approach of agricultural drainage by developing and adopting modern technologies and tools suited to local conditions for the reclamation of waterlogged and saline areas is required right from planning / implementation stage.

? The public private partnership in development and management of water resources for irrigation with the involvement of local stakeholders to ensure efficient management of the scarce water resources is to be given immediate attention.

Investment in improved technologies in agriculture and irrigation

Productivity improvement in agriculture rests on the removal of a number of structural constraints affecting the sector. A key constraint is climatic variability, which raises the risk factor facing intensive agriculture based on the significant inflow of private investment. Policies for rapid productivity growth, with a range of innovations in risk management, market development, rural finance, organizing and training farmers, and provision of technical advisory services, need to be strengthened to make markets work better and provide a conducive environment for technology adoption.

Large scale funding is required to provide for projected additional withdrawals of water as well as for the requirements regarding drainage and flood protection. One estimate calls for enhancement of present level of funding for irrigation by at least 40%, not only for new infrastructure but also for replacement, modernisation of ageing systems and imparting sustainability to them. Governments have to support the provision of irrigation when private agents are unwilling to do so. For modernisation, replacements and new construction, a significant part of funding will still have to come from governments. The reengagement of MFIs and donors with dams and other major hydraulic works would improve water and food security for many farmers, especially in Africa.

Global financial flows into water, after a slight increase in the 1990s, have recently fallen to a very low point. ODA for the water sector has been declining in recent years, partly because of the general decline of aid in agriculture sector, partly because of the sharp drop in aid for large dams and water storage schemes. Despite its spread into other sectors, microfinance has made limited penetration into agriculture and needs to be expanded.

Public irrigation agencies need to be granted more financial autonomy, though major reforms are going to be needed to improve their creditworthiness. Small scale farmer-financed schemes would benefit from the proposals to develop local capital markets, micro-credit and development finance institutions (Camdessus, 2003).

Affordable credit facilities to finance their investments continues to be cumbersome as a result they continue to need additional off-farm income to improve their livelihoods thereby limiting the possibilities for sustainable increase in productivity in the smallest of smallholdings to ensure their families basic needs.

Water productivity efficiency in agriculture

The larger part of extra agricultural output will have to come from the more efficient use of water resources already being exploited, epitomized in the slogan more crop per drop. More crop per drop implies the reduction of losses from the transport and distribution of irrigation water, and its more efficient application to crops.

Lack of regular annual maintenance results in many irrigation systems falling into disrepair. There is urgent need for modernisation of several large irrigation schemes in Asia besides replacement of old schemes. Low water use efficiency can also be attributed to low level of on-farm irrigation technology, land management as well as deficiency of operation and maintenance. The more efficient use of water in rainfed systems will have a major part to play, in some cases supplemented by irrigation water. Communities and households will need to capture more water through catchments for local productive purposes.

Lining of canals and distribution system or use of low pressure pipes for distribution wherever feasible as well as introduction of efficient on-farm facilities and practices can help achieve better efficiency. It is also necessary to set up a water accounting system based on real time monitoring of flows and water demand. Adoption of water saving sprinkler and drip irrigation systems may help to achieve not only better utilisation of scarce water resources, but also better output of crops due to application of the correct quantum of water at the critical stages of growth. It also would mean enhancement of standards for new areas of irrigation and drainage, including guarding against the risk of salinisation, and sustainable development of the rural area, for which financial resources ought to be earmarked.

Agricultural services and irrigation and drainage management agencies as service providers need to effectively engage the smallholders? WUA / WUAFs as partners in all aspects of development and management.

Working towards irrigation targets

Although water is the subject of only one of the goals contained in the Millennium Declaration, it is vital to achieving the others, such as poverty, education and gender equality. To take just three examples: providing segregated toilet facilities in schools is in many societies a pre-condition for the further education of girls; the availability of private toilets and water in-house or close by would make a big difference to the lives of millions of women; and irrigation is and will increasingly be a prerequisite to increasing food production to feed the growing world Population and address malnutrition thereby improving health and well being.

During the last 15 years the investment in water infrastructure, particularly the irrigation sector has declined. While the Agenda 21 had identified water use efficiency, introduction of drainage, development of irrigation programs including small scale irrigation the progress has been slow and tardy, at the best, and is incommensurate with the enormity of the problem. There is lack of political support due to the complexities of the issues: financing of large infrastructure, participation of users in infrastructure management, over-exploitation of groundwater, environmental impact of irrigation etc., some of which are mired in controversies.

It is not that there are no problems in the implementation of ?Water Management System Projects?. There is a wide knowledge on these issues in ICID circles. And even willingness to tackle them. Striving to build a stronger evidence base of the contribution of improved water management which encompasses more efficient and effective use of all the ?Environmental Resources? and its contribution to ?Poverty Reduction? will be brought out effectively in the days to come. Efforts will also be made to identify the means to enhance the sustainability and effectiveness of water management systems with pro-poor objectives and moving towards achieving the goals set in MDGs.

The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage urges the global community to commit itself to fulfilling the following targets in Irrigation sector with a view to support the sustainable development and poverty alleviation, submits that following targets need to be achieved:

1. Develop clear Irrigation Policies within next 15 years, relevant to the country, as an integral part of the National Water Policy following IWRM principles.

2. The irrigated area at the global level should be increased by 15 percent in the next 15 years with differentiated increments

3. The water productivity efficiency should be improved by 15 percent with due consideration of basin irrigation system efficiency.

4. Investment in irrigation sector should be increased by 30 percent in next 15 years

The achievement of the aforementioned targets and outcomes would help the global leaders assembled at the Rio+20 Summit to deliver a new model of human and economic development and ensure a real impact on human well-being across the world.
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