General summary Asia
Trends in irrigation and drainage
Although quite subjective by nature, some clear trends can be observed
across the countries of the region. The most frequently mentioned issue relates to the
recognition of the failure to develop adequate operation and maintenance (O&M)
mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of the irrigation schemes (mostly large, public
schemes). Irrigation management transfer or increased participation of users in the
management of the schemes is seen by most countries as the solution to this sustainability
problem. This is achieved through the development or improvement of water users
associations (WUAs) and is a priority in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Nepal and
the Republic of Korea where WUAs are a reality. In the Philippines, Lao PDR and China,
gradual programmes of irrigation management transfer are at different stages of
completion, while Mongolia plans to introduce WUAs in the near future.
Financial sustainability requires a revision of measurement,
computation and recovery mechanisms related to water fees. In countries such as China, Lao
PDR, Thailand, the policy is now to adjust water fees so that they cover at least the cost
The strengthening of WUAs is also linked to the need expressed in
several countries to improve the overall performance and water use efficiency of
irrigation schemes. Intensification and improved performance are indicated as objectives
of irrigation policies for India, Bangladesh and Malaysia. Diversification (from rice) is
a policy of Japan and Malaysia, while Lao PDR Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Viet Nam are
attempting to promote a more market-oriented irrigated agriculture, free cropping and
extension of cash crops.
Countries are also studying ways to modernize their irrigation as for
instance in Japan, Malaysia and Mongolia.
As the older public schemes reach the age of 30-40 years in most
countries, the issue of rehabilitation, which is related to those of operation and
maintenance and modernization, is becoming increasingly important. While for some
countries (such as Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Viet Nam and parts of India) the
extension of irrigated land still represents an important part of irrigation programmes,
in most countries rehabilitation programmes are taking on increasing importance. The
increased land and water scarcity and low expected return of future expansion of
irrigation in these countries are often factors explaining the growing importance of
rehabilitation in irrigation programmes.
Indeed, water scarcity is another major issue mentioned in several
country reports such as for China, Japan, Philippines or India. Increased competition for
water between sectors already affects agriculture in China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and
the Republic of Korea and the trend is towards an intensification of the problem due
mainly to the rapid growth of the domestic and industrial sectors in these countries.
Major interbasin transfer programmes are reported in China and Thailand. Water scarcity
and the interdependency between water use sectors are pushing countries to develop
integrated water resources management programmes, as in Malaysia, Myanmar, Viet Nam and
Water quality is also a growing concern in several countries where
industrial development is important: Republic of Korea, India, Malaysia, Philippines,
while some progress in water quality is reported in Japan. The increased importance of
water conservation and protection in the national programmes is also mentioned in
Indonesia, the Philippines and Bangladesh; in this last country, siltation is the single
most important water quality issue.
Competition for land is acute in Japan (where urban encroachment on
agricultural land also has implications for water distribution in irrigated areas), in DPR
Korea and in the Philippines. In Thailand, the transfer of populations from high density
to low density areas has encountered serious socio-economic problems.
While irrigation has been instrumental in achieving self-sufficiency in
staple crop production in recent decades in most countries of the region, some countries
such as Indonesia and the Philippines still indicate self-sufficiency as a major target of
their irrigation development programmes; this mainly to keep pace with rising populations.
In Malaysia, however, the national policy is to decrease self-sufficiency in rice from 80
to 65 percent in 2010, due to the high cost of rice production. In Japan, rice
irrigation has been on a downward trend for the last 20 years due to overproduction in the