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Guiding Principles

Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Irrigation Systems Act (APFMIS ACT)
Performance of Irrigation Sector
Despite major plan investments in irrigation by the Government of Andhra Pradesh (GOAP) which have increased the irrigation potential, most systems are in disrepair and dilapidated due to inadequate maintenance. This has lead to the shrinkage of command areas. Irrigation systems are characterized by low irrigation efficiencies and tail-end deprivation. An anarchic situation existed in established commands, where head-enders appropriated most of the water for themselves. This situation was exacerbated by a lack of coordination among the various Departments of Irrigation, Agriculture, and Revenue. The gap between the potential irrigated area created and the actual utilization, popularly known as the “gap area” has been estimated at about one half million hectares. Lack of established operation and maintenance (O&M) procedures, inadequate funds for O&M, and ad hoc expenditures by the Irrigation Department have compounded the unsatisfactory performance of most systems. Most of the agency’s O&M funds were being spent on staff salaries; very little was being spent effective maintenance. This has lead to the siltation of major canals and drains and damage to their lined sections. In addition, dissatisfied farmers seeking more water, or water deliveries at the appropriate time, have tampered with irrigation structures causing further damage. Such unauthorized irrigation led to a low collection of water charges by the Revenue Department, as the measured water supplied was quite low. The following points represented the position of irrigation sector in Andhra Pradesh:

1. Low performance instead of high investment in the sector. The irrigation sector alone had 24% of the plan expenditure of the eighth plan (1992/93 to 1996/97). 

2. Irrigation infrastructure was in disrepair resulting in decline in irrigated area. From 1991/92 From 1991/92 to 1993/94, the gross irrigated area dropped from 4.3 million ha to 3.9 million ha. In 1998, out of 4.8 million ha of net irrigated area created, only 2.8 million ha was actually

3. Growth in productivity has declined in recent years to less than 2% per annum. A major factor has been weak performance of irrigated agriculture. During the 1990s, rice yields averaged only 2.6 t/ha.

4. Cumulative impact of inadequate maintenance of infrastructure. Expenditure on
O&M in 1995/96 was only Rs 99/ha, as against the tenth Finance Commission 1997)
recommendation of Rs 300/ha for major and medium irrigation projects.

5. Rehabilitating and sustaining irrigation and enhancing agricultural productivity are of paramount importance. About 40% of the state's gross cropped area is irrigated. The contribution of irrigation to the state’s agricultural production is about 60%.

The situation in AP is representative of the prevailing conditions in other Indian states. The need for change and reform had become obvious.


The Andhra Pradesh Farmers Management of Irrigation Systems (APFMIS) Act of 1997 was a revolutionary piece of legislation. It was the first of its kind in India, seeking to bring a paradigm shift in irrigation management. The act contains broad provisions relating to the types of irrigation schemes, tiers of Farmers Organizations (FOs), elections, functions of FOs, resources, and penalties for offenses.

Salient Features of the APFMIS Act

  • Transfer of power for the management of state-owned assets
  • Creation of new autonomous institutions as legal entities
  • Areas defined on a hydraulic basis
  • Equity achieved within the structure of a WUA by introducing the concept of territorial constituencies
  • All land holders in possession of land in an irrigation system become WUA members with voting rights
  • One member, one vote
  • Elections by secret ballot
  • Functional and administrative autonomy
  • Freedom to raise resources
  • Resolution of disputes and compounding of offenses
  • Simplified procedures for taking up works
  • Five-year tenure for Farmer Organizations
  • Irrigation Department, as competent authority, is made fully accountable to the Farmer Organizations
  • Right to recall an elected member after one year
  • Social audit and annual accounts audit

Water Charges

The reform in Andhra Pradesh was made possible by two major decisions made by the state:

  • Tripling of water charges and linking of water charges to O&M
  • Linking the WUAs with a program of minimum rehabilitation

Increasing the water charges by three times is an action, which most governments would shy away from. The increase was made possible in a novel manner. First, water charges were equated with the price of a bag of paddy. Second, the administration decided on a policy of giving the revenue collected from water charges back to the farmers to fund O&M activities. The farmers revolted against the sudden raise in water charges. After a great deal of debate in the State Assembly, it was decided to reduce the water charges to Rs. 497 per hectare, three times the original figure.

The AP government has established a policy whereby WUAs will begin to collect the water charges in their areas of operation. Finally, the government will hand over collection responsibilities to the WUAs. This will necessarily be a slow process since WUAs need to build up the capability and confidence to assess, levy, and collect water charges.

Irrigation Management Reform
A major component of the reform to the irrigation sector was aimed at giving a greater role to farmers in irrigation management. To determine a suitable framework for increasing farmer participation, a series of public consultations were conducted throughout the state in most major irrigation commands. This consultative approach marked a dramatic departure from the usual way governments work. Initially, both farmers and agency staff met the consultations with severe cynicism and indifference. Within the Irrigation Department, most viewed the current sordid state of affairs as a result of inadequate budgets and increasing political interference. It was felt that adequate infusions of cash for O&M would substantially improve irrigation system performance. Farmers approached the public consultations with a mixture of curiosity and cynicism. While there was great apprehensions toward the new approach, things became clear as several actions followed, one reinforcing the other. This sort of a systematic and persistent approach is what makes the program unique.

Public Consultations

Beginning in April 1996, a series of public consultations were held in centrally located places in command areas of major projects. These informal discussions gave a tremendous amount of input to the government for use in designing a suitable plan of action. The first round of public consultations was used to elicit the viewpoints of the farmers and Irrigation Department staff. Subsequent rounds employed a more structured framework for discussion. The objective of the government was to understand the viewpoints of all concerned. Therefore, participation in the public consultations was not restricted to farmers, but also included politicians, political parties, researchers, and the press. In AP, this was perhaps the first attempt by the government to seek out the viewpoints of beneficiaries and the parties likely to be affected.

The consultations have enabled the government to steer the reform process in a transparent manner. From the beginning, there was as no clearly defined blue print to guide the actions of the government. Rather, the state has attempted to adopt a learning process approach, continually incorporating feedback to guide the reforms.

SRSP Pilot Project
In 1996, two non-governmental organizations (NGOs), IRDAS and SONAR, conducted a pilot project in the Sriramsagar project in Karimnagar District. The results of the pilot project encouraged the government to adopt a concrete plan of action. A key result of the pilot was the finding that substantial improvement in the operation of the irrigation system were realized when farmers in the head, middle, and tail end of the command came together to consult with and negotiate with each other. The pilot also revealed that small interventions, such as removal of accumulated silt and weeds and minor repairs to structures, yield dramatic results. Contrary to popular belief, most works that are considered technical can be undertaken by farmers themselves with no compromise in quality. Some cooperating engineers developed “layman’s techniques” for farmers who take up operation and maintenance works. Even thought the pilot study only covered a relatively small area, its results were highly significant to the state government, as they showed a possible strategy that could be adopted throughout the state, namely one of farmer participation in O&M.

Problems of Scaling Up

The problem facing GOAP was how to scale up PIM to a statewide level using the lessons learned from pilot projects in AP and other states. A number of issues warranted more detailed debate and analysis, including: the wide diversity in irrigation schemes; problems of absentee landlordism, large numbers of unregistered tenants, encroachers and unauthorized cultivators, and the lack of a uniform legislation. In the absence of comprehensive legislation14 on irrigation in Andhra Pradesh, it was decided to create new legislation exclusively to enable participatory irrigation management. Feedback from the public consultations became the main input in drafting the law. The legislation was subjected to several rounds of discussion among the various stakeholders. The Andhra Pradesh Farmers’ Management of Irrigation Systems (APFMIS) Act was enacted in 1997. The act was the first legislation of its kind in India. The state government decided to extend participatory irrigation management to all parts of the state at one stroke. The GOAP felt that, in order for the reform to be successful, the following were important considerations:
i. To ensure equitable distribution of benefits of the reform
ii. Provide uniform legislation
iii. Completely involve the Irrigation Department and the Government
iv. Spread the new paradigm across the whole area in the shortest possible time

Without adequate monitoring, this approach to reform ran the risk of ending in disaster. The actions taken by GOAP continuously over a period of time ensured that this would be only a remote possibility. A major constraint for implementing such a major program is the diversity of agro-climatic zones and types of irrigation schemes in the state. Despite the difficulties of implementing a single model across a variety of schemes, the state was committed to giving the farmers a new role in managing irrigation, and all projects, big and small, old and new, were included in the reform.

In 1997, the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), India embarked on an ambitious program of reform to its irrigation sector. In this state, irrigation management has been revolutionized by transferring responsibility for the operation and maintenance (O&M) of irrigation schemes to groups of farmers. In total, 10,292 Water User Associations (WUAs) have been created. The reform required a number of very difficult changes, as the role of irrigation agency is gradually shifting from service provider to facilitator, and reform has not come without resistance and conflict. However, early indications are overwhelmingly positive, as many irrigation systems are realizing increased revenues, an increase in irrigated area, and enhanced involvement of farmers in the operation of irrigation. The Water User Associations (WUAs) were created through a democratic process of elections. The APFMIS Act gives the state the power to create WUAs and federate WUAs into higher level committees. Reform has made the irrigation agency accountable to the Farmer Organizations, and resulted in the tripling of water charges and linking the money collected to the costs of operating and maintaining irrigation systems.

Reform will go a long way towards making the irrigation sector sustainable. The goal of the reform will be achieved when WUAs in AP become sustainable by raising funds for irrigation operation and maintenance on their own. Water sector reforms in Andhra Pradesh break new ground for reforms in the water sector in India. Several states in the India have launched similar programs with AP as a role model. Reforms in the irrigation sector were among the first in a series of reforms launched by the state. The success of Water User Associations in the state has prompted the government to launch similar strategies in other sectors. The process of reform is both difficult and complex. It demands a high level of commitment, open minds, and flexible options for change. Introducing change in any organization is often viewed with suspicion and apprehension. The people’s vigorous response to the reform program is what makes Andhra Pradesh unique.

Water Users Associations formed during the year 1997 in Andhra Pradesh to promote and secure distribution of water amongst the user, adequate maintenance of irrigation systems, efficient and economic utilization of water, to encourage modernization of agriculture, to optimize agriculture production, protect the environment and to ensure ecological balance by involving farmers, inculcating a sense of ownership of the irrigation system in accordance with the water budget and the operational plan. There are about 8094 WUA’s under Minor irrigation sources, 2274 WUAs under Major irrigation projects and 446 WUA’s under Medium irrigation projects.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has placed people’s institutions and resources in place. Critical question of efficiency of management system and water use efficiency are to be addressed as part of the future strategy. Under this background the future strategy shall be to focus on revival and restoration of tanks, increase in water use efficiency so as to utilize the full irrigation potential created. Water use efficiency need to be regularly monitored and reviewed from the project level to the WUA level. The best water use efficiency realized in last 5 years under each source at each level is fixed as an initial target for Kharif 2005-06. Best practices elsewhere need to be evaluated and adopted for realizing these targets.


For details Refer to APFMIS ACT (download)

National Framework on Renovation on Water Bodies

The meeting of the State Secretaries of Irrigation and Water Resources held on 4 and 5 October 2005 at New Delhi discussed the issue of revival of existing irrigation tanks as part of the Bharat Nirman Programme. It was suggested to prepare a National Framework for posing a project for assistance to the World Bank. Accordingly, the Ministry of Water Resources GoI has issued a National Framework for Renovation of Water Bodies in India. The National Framework lays down the intended objectives, institutional arrangement, types of interventions, implementation phases and the funding modalities for the project.

The objective of the project will be:
To create additional irrigation capacity by restoring the lost irrigation command of water bodies including treatment of catchments system through a micro basin approach. This will also include extension of irrigation command through water use efficiency.

The key design principles of the project will be:

  • Sustainability of the restored systems through community participation and empowerment facilitated by NGO / other agency to have self-supporting groups at the level of water body
  • To create enabling legal and institutional environment to implement the solutions emerging out of participatory and demand driven processes
  • To promote and enhance livelihood options
  • Community contribution to be made compulsory. The suggested extent is about 10 % of the total project cost out of which 5 % may be kind and the remaining in cash.
  • Although the project will benefit the farmers more, it will include the whole tank user community involving other users

The project will include capacity building and training to secure the objective and translate the key design principles into action along with the physical restoration of the tank system and promotion of agricultural development as its primary interventions.

The project will include only water bodies having irrigation command above 20 ha. Restoration of water bodies of command less than 20 ha will be taken up through other central or state schemes like employment guarantee scheme etc.

The state level agency responsible for implementation of the project will be a PMU with the facility to function in a flexible manner, called a Special Purpose Vehicle. It will be the responsibility of the state level agency to plan the activities and monitor them. It will also provide the coordination functions with other agencies and manage the interface with the World Bank. It will be responsible for recruiting and monitoring the NGOs, multi disciplinary teams and arranging for capacity building and training, etc. The state level agency may have district level and sub-district level agencies. These will report to the state level agency.

NGO or any other suitable agency will be employed as facilitating teams to ensure community mobilization. They will help the community to think through the issues and focus on choices available. They will make them aware of their role and responsibility including for community contribution. They will facilitate the institutional strengthening of the WUAs.

The key to the sustainability of the project will be meaningful participation by the community in design and implementation of the project and in accepting full responsibility for future O&M of the tank system. It is, therefore, necessary that there is government commitment to transfer tank management to the WUAs through suitably designed MOUs, which are legally supported. The roles and responsibilities of WUA will be delineated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which will be signed between them and the project agency. While routine O&M and some rehabilitation can be done by WUA, major repair works will be done by government or the Panchayat depending on who owns the water body. The WUAs will also have to be empowered to levy and collect water charges and treat the revenue that may accrue from the water charges and increased livelihood options, say, like from fisheries and so on, as WUA funds for O&M purposes.

The project will have a clear phasing of the activities based on the processes involved. The phases could be pre planning, planning, implementation and consolidation. Community organization will be the precursor for physical infrastructure improvement in view of the IMT envisaged. Pre planning and planning will include community organization and facilitating community in preparing the micro plan that includes net planning, water audit, crop plan and water distribution plan. Implementation phase will also include community’s role in execution (based on the financial limit of works for tendering), monitoring and supervision. Consolidation phase will emphasis on hand holding of community based institutions and building their capacities to take over the O&M.

GoI will assist the state governments in the preparation of projects. The framework and the principles recommended will have to be converted into project development framework in a much more detailed manner. This will be achieved by creating a Mission Directorate at the Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR) with funding support in order that the Mission Directorate can effectively play its role. The MoWR will also centrally monitor the project and ensure experience sharing, learning and dissemination. In the event of a state taking a World Bank loan the entire assistance will be a loan burden to the state government. In view of this and the fact that there is a definite role envisaged for GoI in the project, GOI will give a grant of at least 25 % of the project cost to the states.

The unit cost (Rupees / ha) of restoration of water bodies of command size 40-100 ha will be Rs. 50,000 and of command size 100-501 ha will be Rs. 40,000. This will include 10 % for capacity building.

These are the following recommendations put forward by the National framework on renovation on Water Bodies:

  • The States may prepare the project taking into consideration the number of water bodies required to be included in the project.  However, a sub-basin approach may be advisable.
  • The selection of water bodies may be restricted to the water bodies, which has a minimum of 20 Ha CCA.  However, in case of hilly areas the limit may be reduced to 4 Ha.  In case of water bodies having less than 20 Ha falling within the sub-basin the State may take up repair of such water bodies under the ongoing rural development schemes and the proposed employment guarantee schemes etc.
  • The incidence of poverty and ground water levels in particular region and hydrology may be given priority while selecting the water bodies. The project will attempt to enhance livelihood options within an overall poverty reduction approach.
  • Study of hydrology is necessary before selecting the water bodies.  It may be a waste of expenditure to deepen the water bodies if the present inflow of rainwater itself is insufficient.
  • In the proposed project the cost per hectare including all expenses may be restricted to Rs.40000 to 45000 per hectare of CCA.  The establishment and administrative consultancy expenses may be restricted to 20% of the total project cost.
  • The funding pattern:  The members of the Committee have expressed unanimously that the Government of India should continue to contribute for the project as it is being done in the case of pilot schemes for restoration of water bodies.
  • Community participation is a must.  The contribution from the beneficiaries may be restricted to 10% of the project cost and out of which 5% cash (cash component may be reduced further in view of the past experience) and the remaining in kind.  This is essential to make the participants committed to the project implementation.
  • The water bodies have to be transferred at the end of the project implementation to the community for maintenance purpose with suitable empowerment measures and legal backing for levying, collection and retaining of water rate and other incomes from the water bodies, especially fisheries. I will be necessary to create an enabling legal and institutional environment for this purpose.
  • Institutional arrangements:  Special purpose vehicle, either as society or otherwise, may have to be formed at the State level to carry on the project on mission mode with necessary district and sub-district level arrangements.
  • The community facilitating teams with multi-disciplinary subject expectancy, either through NGO or otherwise, may be provided for social mobilization and implementation of the project through the community. Necessary capacity building and training components will have to be provided towards this end.
  • It should not be a contractor-oriented work (COW), but should be a people oriented programme.
  • The procurement of goods and services required for the project may be done through the State unit and user group as per the procurement systems in vogue in that particular State or as indicated in the project report.
  • The project cycle should be reasonably longer, say around 18 months for proper implementation of the project through community participation.
  • M&E arrangements, quality control measures and concurrent and periodical auditing of the project expenditure is necessary. There should be a defined role for community and third party ( recognized institutions and agencies)
  • The other relevant aspects as discussed in the report may be adopted as and where necessary.

Repair, Renovate and Restoration of Water Bodies Directly Linked to Agriculture (RRR Project)

To restore minor irrigation tanks in the state the I&CAD Department, GoAP is implementing a pilot project called Repair, Renovate and Restoration of Water Bodies Directly Linked to Agriculture (RRR Project). The project is funded by the GoI and covers 261 tanks in 2 districts of the state (Mahaboobnagar – 224 and Ananthpur – 37). The objectives of the pilot project are:

  • To restore and augment storage capacities of water bodies
  • To recover and extend their lost irrigation potential

The project is focusing on four major outputs to achieve its objectives. These are:



Tax collection

Regular WUA meetings

WUA records maintenance

Auditing of WUA accounts


Social Issues

Community taking up for entry point activities Shramadan, desilting, etc

Identification of best practitioners (change agents) and para-workers


Productivity Enhancement

Promotion of ID crops and SRI paddy

Adoption of organic pesticide management practices

Soil sample analysis

Farmers Field Schools


Water Management

Warabandi and water sharing

Adoption of new technology in water management - drip and sprinklers

Water audit and crop planning

Social regulation of ground water

Andhra Pradesh Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

Government of India passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (Central Act No.42 of 2005) which gives legal guarantee of at least one hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household, whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled and manual work.  The Act is applicable in the Districts notified by the Government of India.

The objective of the Act is to enhance the livelihood security of the people in rural areas by generating wage employment.  The choice of works suggested addresses causes of chronic poverty like drought, deforestation and soil erosion. Effectively implemented, the employment generated under the Act has the potential to transform the geography of rural poverty.

According to the Act, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has formulated the Scheme called Andhra Pradesh Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to provide not less than one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household in rural areas covered under the Scheme and whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work subject to the conditions stipulated in the Act and notified in the Scheme. This Scheme came into force with effect from 2nd February  2006 in the rural areas of the following 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh namely; (1) Adilabad, (2) Karimnagar, (3) Nizamabad, (4) Medak, (5) Mahabubnagar, (6) Ranga Reddy, (7) Khammam, (8) Nalgonda, (9) Warangal, (10) Anantapur, (11) Kadapa, (12) Chittoor and (13) Vizianagaram. 


(1)    Every registered rural household shall be provided not less than 100 days of wage employment, on demand, in a financial year.
(2)    Payment of wages shall be made at least once in a fortnight.  
(3)    Equal wages shall be paid to men and women.
(4)    Contractors and labour displacing machinery shall not be engaged.
(5)    Only works approved by the Gram Panchayat (identified in the Gram Sabha) at village level, the Mandal Parishad at Mandal level and the Zilla Parishad at District level shall be taken up.

Rights and Entitlements

(1)         Every adult member whose name appears in the Job Card shall be entitled to apply for unskilled manual work. 
(2)    All persons belonging to a household and registered shall be entitled to employment under the Scheme for as many days as each applicant may request, subject to a maximum of one hundred days per household in a given financial year.
(3)    If an applicant is not provided with such employment within fifteen days of receipt of his/ her application seeking employment or from the date on which the employment has been sought in the case of an advance application whichever is later, he/ she shall be entitled to a daily unemployment allowance subject to the entitlement of the household at the rate which shall not be less than one fourth of the wage rate for the first 30 (thirty) days of the financial year and not less than one half of the wage rate for the remaining period of financial year .
(4)    As far as possible the applicant shall be provided work within the village. If an applicant is provided employment outside a radius of five kilometers of the village where he/ she resides at the time of applying he/ she should be paid an extra 10% of the prevailing wage rate to meet additional transportation and living expenses.
(5)    Priority shall be given to women in such a way that at least one-third of the wage seekers shall be women who have registered and requested for work.
(6)    In case the payment of wages is not made within a fortnight, the workers shall be entitled to receive payment of compensation as per the provisions of the Payment of Wages Act 1936(4 of 1936).
(7)    There shall be no discrimination solely on the ground of gender and the provisions of the Equal Remuneration Act.  1976 (25 of 1976) shall be complied with.
(8)    Workers are entitled for work site facilitieslike safe drinking water, shade for children and periods of rest, first-aid box with adequate material for emergency treatment of minor injuries and other health hazards connected with the work.
(9)    If the number of children below the age of six years accompanying the women, working at any site is five or more, one woman worker shall be engaged to look after the children and she shall be paid wage rate.
(10)  Any injury caused to a person employed under the Scheme by accident arising out of and in the course of his/her employment, such person is entitled to medical treatment free of charge.
(11)  Where hospitalization of the injured worker at the worksite is necessary, such arrangements shall be made including accommodation, treatment and medicines. The injured worker shall be paid a daily allowance not less than half of the wage rate required to be paid had the injured been engaged in the work.
(12)  If the person employed dies or becomes permanently disabled by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, he/ she shall be paid an ex-gratia at the rate of Rs. 25,000 or such amount as may be notified by the Central Government, and the amount shall be paid to the disabled or legal heirs of the deceased, as the case may be.
(13)  Any personal injury caused by accident to a child accompanying any person employed under the Scheme, such person is entitled to free of charge medical treatment for the child and in case of death or disablement, an ex-gratia as determined by the Government.

Type of Works

(i)  The focus of the Scheme shall be on the following works in the order of priority:
(1) Water conservation and water harvesting.
(2) Drought proofing (including afforestation and tree plantation).
(3) Irrigation canals, including micro and minor irrigation works;
(4) Provision of irrigation facility to land owned by households belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or to land of beneficiaries of land reforms or that of the beneficiaries of Indira Awas Yojana program.
(5) Renovation of traditional water bodies including desilting of tanks.
(6) Land development.

(7) Flood control and protection works, including drainage in water-logged areas.
(8) Rural connectivity to provide all-weather access.
Any other work, which may be notified by the Central Government in consultation with the State Government.
(ii) Investing on Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe lands for irrigation and land development duly fulfilling Special Component Plan / Tribal Sub-Plan norms in each Mandal.
(iii) In order to ensure that the adequate investments under Employment Guarantee Scheme are channelised for plantation programme, it is proposed that 20% of the value of works taken up in Village shall be on plantation programme.

(iv) Roads can be taken up as last priority not exceeding 10% of the value of all types of works taken up.

Andhra Pradesh Community Based Tank Management Project is linked to the Andhra Pradesh Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for the purpose of desiltation activities of tanks. The tanks where desilting is required, Water Users Association can enlist the work as a shelf of works prepared by the Gram Panchyat to be taken up under APREGS.

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