The user communities distribute the allocated water among themselves according to allocation keys which are laid down by their members. A complex system is applied in Haiderabad. Six days of Bululo water have to be divided among four kinship groups (the same like in Baltit). The Haiderabad people have formed six user groups of equal size. Four groups consisting of Diramiting, Buroon, Baratalin and Qhurukuc, respectively, and two groups of Baskaotin (from bask, literally meaning surplus, in addition). The members of the Baskaotin are the extra households of the four clans that are numerically in excess of the group size.
On the other hand, in Karimabad the ten-day-cycle is distributed among the four room in a manner that schedules irrigation for two days and three nights or three days and two nights are allocated to the relevant kinship groups. Every year a different clan begins the irrigation cycle thus avoiding any preferential arrangement for individual kinship groups. Within these user communities the irrigation sequence varies annually from top to bottom and from East to West (cf. Tab. 7.2). These examples illustrate the wide range of possible communal agreements that have been established in order to safeguard equity for all users.
These cycles of six or ten days respectively present no real indicator for the actual time required to irrigate all the fields of a user group. In periods of water deficiency, e.g. during the sowing of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) in November/December or of summer barley (Hordeum vulgare) in February/March, the total time necessary to irrigate all fields once could amount to forty-eight days. In order to maximize the use of available water the whole community has adapted a cultivation pattern in which the first crops of winter wheat and summer barley are represented in equal quantities (cf. Fig. 7.6). Both are sown in deficiency periods. On the contrary the second crops like maize (Zea mays), millets (Panicum miliaceum; Setaria italica), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) and buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum and tataricum) are exempted from such regulations. In summer, surplus conditions of no water shortage prevail and the entire village land of Central Hunza can be irrigated within a sixteen-day cycle.
Valuable water resources have to be distributed according to systematic management and plant requirements. Top priority is given to cereal crops on irrigated terraces (harkis). After the first watering (buruui) of all wheat fields, barley is irrigated. Then follow potato furrows, vegetable plots (‘san khutkus) and at last lucerne (Medicago sativa). This regulated sequence repeated at the second watering (yktcil) and is only relaxed when sufficie water is available in the old channels. With the end of restrictive water us the first irrigation of orchards (basikis) is permitted. The timing of this da in relation to the summer solstice (21 June) gives the measurement for the classification of a good or bad “water year”.
This complex system of rationing is applied in Central Hunza in those settlements that command limited water sources or have grown beyond their resource capacity. Communities with abundant irrigation water do not need such a highly sophisticated distribution key to safeguard a high probability of sufficient crop production. Villages like Altit, for example, allot the annual sequence of irrigation every year through the drawing of lots, while in Ganesh the rotational structure is fixed.
Different kinship groups are in command of day or night cycles. Some water rights incorporate structural inadequacy of the systems, such as in the case of the Barber channel, where parties whose parcels are located nearer to the source are given preference. Karimabad as a whole is allowed Barber water during daylight hours, while Haiderabad, Dorkhan and Aliabad utilize the precious resource at night. The farmers of the Diramitin kinship group in Karimabad profit from the location of their agricultural lands in the same manner as the people of Haiderabad and can divert any needed quantity of water to their fields. The difficult location of Aliabad at the lower end of Barber, Dala and Pir gocil results in greater water deficiency in this village than in others. Topographical features in combination with settlement history pinpoint the structural injustice. An additional factor contributes to the water supply situation, for along the course of the 10 kilometre-long open channels a substantial quantity of water is lost by evaporation and seepage.
Water channels function as multipurpose lines. Besides irrigation, the system provides all washing and drinking water as well. Unfortunately, such channels furnish poor quality drinking water badly affected by contamination. Thus without control of its own water sources, the second biggest village of Hunza, Aliabad, is the most dependent on other areas for drinking and irrigation water supply. The village community is eager to reduce further losses and irrigates all fields consecutively: one year the irrigation starts in the east, the following year in the west.
Ecological limitations are responsible for these rules and regulations to a lesser degree than socio-political and historical events. They laid the foundations for water rights of certain user groups which have to be defended against competitors. Water surplus and deficiency regions are defined by traditional rights of individual groups. Complex irrigation systems afford community efforts during construction and regular maintenance in which all social groups (household, kinship group, and village) are involved on different levels of participation.
ORGANIZATIONAL ASPECTS OF WATER MANAGEMENT
The tham of Hunza has traditionally taken the initiative for the planning and execution of construction work on irrigation channels. He normally involved his wazir in this enterprise of state importance in his dual function as prime minister and executive engineer for planning and supervision. The respective kinship groups or village communities served as construction workers. Early major channel projects accomplished general construction with simple technical devices and tools like wooden shovels and ibex horns (cf. the contribution of Hussain Wali Khan and Izhar Ali Hunzai in this volume). Sheer cliffs were mastered with support structures made of wood and stone. The reputation of wazir and workers increased through ingenious channel alignments and they secured usufructory rights to the meliorated lands through their participation in rajaaki.
Communal work of comparative size is only called for in certain cases nowadays, for example when a new storage tank (phari) has to be excavated or when a channel has been breached. In the latter case, all user households have to co-operate until the breached channel has been repaired or until new course has been excavated. Except for these exceptional or episodic events, fewer individuals are required in the management of channel systems through the regular activities of operation and maintenance.
The annual cleaning and repair work starts prior to the first irrigation of crops in spring. Farmers who own land within the channel command area are obligated to remove the deposited sediment of the previous year from the channel-bed. These activities were traditionally controlled by the wazir, who supervised the works and possessed the right to sanction those who do not participate according to the rules (cf. Lorimer 1979: 126-133). His influence in allocating the various jobs in water management contributed to his esteem as the chief hydraulic supervisor.
When Hunza lost its autonomy in 1974, the wazir’s post was abolished along with the post of the tham. The traditional functions of the wazir are nowadays executed either by the lambardar or by village committees. Every year the group of village elders assembles in a jirga that distributes the remunerated water management posts among community members for the coming irrigation period. The jirga nominates a supervisor and the water workers (chilgalas) who safeguard the correct distribution schedule and the allocation of water to individual land parcels. They are responsible for checking water theft and have to announce the timing of irrigation to individual households. Minor maintenance work is done by the chilgalas as well. Non-participating households pay a fixed amount in kind or money that basically pays the salary of the water workers.
The number of chilgalas and the water rates are negotiated anew each year and depend on the size of the available village work force. Traditionally these salaried duties formed a highly esteemed way of providing an income to those households with insufficient lands to profitably employ their surplus male work force. Given changes in socio-economic conditions with increased labour emigration and more farmers involved in non-agrarian occupations, such traditional jobs in water management have lost their attraction. This has resulted in increased salaries for these irrigation workers in order to secure local personnel and to safeguard the system of water distribution. Though the cash investment in hiring such people remains within the community, the difficulty in obtaining reliable and expert people for these tasks causes a growing problem for some villages.
Nowadays, often even elderly and retired men are appointed as water guards (yatkuin) to supervise the proportional and equitable distribution of irrigation water at the channel heads. These functionaries are elected for one year and safeguard the fair allocation of water to different communities. The yatkuin are responsible for all duties at the channel heads including the cleaning of sedimentation tanks in which suspended sand particles are precipitated. During periods of surplus water, the yatkuin limit the flow capacity of individual channel systems to avoid breaching of channels.. The yatkuin reside in simple huts or caves in the Ultar nala and in the vicinity of important channel bifurcations during the entire irrigation period. After the end of harvest in autumn they are remunerated in kind, collecting 1-2 kilograms of wheat per channel from every household.
In times of water shortage additional supervisors are brought in to support the appointed guards. Settlements like Haiderabad cannot afford water loss during the early stages of plant growth when overall water shortage in central Hunza increases the chances for water theft by individual farmers. Thus during nighttime, villagers control all ten outlets along the way from Karimabad to Haiderabad in order to protect all tul and tori from being opened unlawfully. In spite of these measures, water theft along with inheritance quarrels still account for the majority of disputes in Hunza each year.
Traditionally the tham fined those found to be stealing water in kind, taking a good share of the penalty for himself. Nowadays the local Ismaili Arbitration and Reconciliation Boards are involved in the legal proceedings. They operate cost-free and compensate the winning party with the entire fine. Some cases are even presented before the public courts (see the contribution by Anna Schmid elsewhere in this volume).
The analysis of the irrigation system in central Hunza has revealed the spectrum of different water rights and organizational rules. based on traditional access to resources and an effective utilization of a limited resource. Fair distribution among entitled community members forms the principle in an approach which rejects the separation of water and land rights. Supervision and control of the irrigation networks that nowadays have become community members’ own property is executed by themselves on the basis of consent. Scarcity and complicated distribution keys have increased the bureaucratic burden of water management. In periods of deficiency small but highly valued quantities of water have to be guarded on their way to the fields. This practice requires substantial manpower, as sluices are numerous. At the same time the system always favours the users residing close to the water source. Generally, they are the oldest settlers of the oases.
Future projects for the construction of new channels have to respect the traditional water rights. This precondition involves certain limitations: Excess meltwater can only be utilized during summer surplus periods. In all other seasons there is no additional water supply available to be tapped. New channels cannot reduce the ubiquitous seasonal water deficiency. Thus the scope for the extension of irrigated areas lies mainly in the reduction of seepage and evaporation in existing networks.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE IRRIGATED OASES OF HUNZA
As explained above, new channel projects increased Hunza’s power and economic base during the reign of hereditary rulers and their wazir. The range of such enterprises was not limited to the main settlement oasis of Central Hunza (cf. Tab. 7.1). Territorial claims and gains were manifested through the establishment of new villages in the southern and northern periphery. Such projects could involve groups of 20 to 100 household members, which were supported by their families in the early phase of meliorisation. Resettled farmers from Baltit and Haiderabad and refugees/ migrants from Wakhan supported expansive plans of the tham in the upper Hunza valley (Ghujal) and founded several villages there (Fig. 7.1). This single-cropping zone abounds with water sources when compared to the other regions.
In the lower Hunza valley (Shinaki) a limited quantity of meltwater from the Maiun nala was utilized to establish a number of fortified villages in the double-cropping area. The main period of internal colonization is connected with the name of Mir M. Nazim Khan (1892-1938) who established a number of villages for a growing population. His successors initiated only a few additional channel projects (Tab. 7.1). The end of hereditary rule in the Northern Areas by 1974 left a power vacuum which was supposed to be filled by institutions from the Pakistan administration. Their involvement in infrastructure projects dramatically increased after the completion of the Karakoram Highway (Kreutzmann 1991, 1993, 1995a, b). Within the Northern Areas a few attempts to establish new irrigation projects were undertaken while in Hunza itself, village communities executed their own channel building using traditional techniques. Village elders were entrusted to supervise the planning and construction of a number of minor projects.
Different development agencies discovered this structural power vacuum and based their target-oriented approaches on self-reliance strategies. Village Production Groups (VPG) and Village Organisations (VO) took over the role of decision-making once held by more traditional institutions such as the tham and wazir. These institutions now identified necessary physical infrastructure projects and managed the workload seeking financial and technological support from external development aid. These agencies have supplied cost-free technical advice to the villages through local engineers in their employ. Other major differences from the past have been that:
· The construction cost is now covered from outside sources; man-days are paid for and not supplied through forced labour (rajakki);
· The channels belong to the community working on them; all participants are entitled to an equal share of water in the irrigated lands. No extra plots are reserved for the tham and wazir or any other high status individuals anymore;
· Water management and maintenance of channels is delegated to
· professionals (chowkidar) who earn more than any traditional supervisor;
· Development agencies supply modern technical equipment for drilling
· and blasting at nominal costs.
Under these favourable conditions a number of irrigation projects have been executed in Hunza identified by the villagers as having top priority. Within the last decade forty-eight physical infrastructure projects have been initiated which aim at the expansion and widening of existing gdcil as well as the construction of new channels (Fig. 7.8). In addition, a few experiments have been executed with siphon (Nasirabad), pipe (Kamaris) and sprinkler (Galapan) irrigation. Several storage reservoirs and sedimentation tanks have been constructed as well in the productive physical infrastructure section of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). Among these projects has been the prestigious effort to free the water supply of central Hunza from total reliance on the Hassanabad glacier. The first phase of the so-called Aliabad gocil was accomplished by 1988 and it is expected that eventually 700 hectares of land will be watered from this new source (Khan 1994) and the irrigation schedule of central Hunza (Tab. 7.2) might be altered to reflect this change of supply.
This difficult project cost the loss of local farmers’ lives during construction in which all concerned villages between Karimabad to Aliabad participated. If this channel will ever become sustainable-an assertion which has not yet been proven-the water deficient villages of Aliabad and Haiderabad will be in a position to irrigate all available land with sufficient quantities of water. The agricultural landscape of those villages would be effected in such a manner that present-day priority rules for crops could be totally relaxed and even marginal plots could be productively utilized. A similar judgment would apply for the remaining villages of central Hunza which would be left with a greater quantity of irrigation water from traditional sources.
So far, however, the new channel can only be deemed a partial success since water flow could not be sustained. Another danger lies in the channel head near the mouth of the Hassanabad glacier. Should the 16 kilometre-long glacier advance only a few hundred metres, it would destroy the channel intake which presently lies only 40 m below in vertical distance. The Aliabad gocil is a great example of a project that could not have been feasible for a village community depending on its own resources. International development aid provides a means of experimenting with new techniques and formerly unprofitable projects. If sustainable development can be envisaged, these projects will increase the agricultural resource base of this mountain valley. In case of failure, only the remuneration of the work force and the communal organizations, which have been developed, will survive. Those ruins of irrigation channels would not be the first and shall not be the last remnants of attempts to maximize the utilization of meagre natural resources in the Karakoram.
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1. Material and quotations from the India Office Library and Records (IOL/IOR) and from the Public Record Office (PRO), London are gratefully acknowledged. Transcripts/ translations of Crown-copyright records in the India Office Records appear by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Fieldwork for this study covers a period from 1984 to 1995 and was kindly funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council) which is gratefully acknowledged.
2. Early appreciations of the irrigated agriculture of Northern Pakistan are found with Saunders 1983; Whiteman 1985. For the neighbouring mountain regions like the Hindukush cf. Grotzbach 1973, Patzelt and de Grancy 1978; for the Himalaya cf. Nitz 1966, Uhlig 1962. Early records of irrigation structures in the Karakoram have been collected by Lorimer 1979. Recent evaluations and analyses have been published by Charles 1985, Kreutzmann 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994.
3. The variability of precipitation in High Asia has been the topic of discussion for a long period; cf. Ferguson 1984; Flohn 1969; Haserodt 1984; Hewitt 1989. New results and calculations have been presented by Reimers 1992 and Weiers 1995. Miehe 1996, Miehe et al. 1996, and Braun 1996 investigated vegetation dynamics and potentials in relation to climatic change’s in High Asia with emphasis on the Karakoram.
4. In the wesh system regular lotteries take place which lead to a rotation of lands among jirga members who safeguard maximum equitability of resource allocation; cf. for societal developments in this region Barth 1956; Janjua 1996; Jettmar 1961, 1977, 1982; Manzar Zarin and Schmidt 1984.
5. Dendrochronological evidence and 14C measurements of organic matter in building materials support this hypothesis; cf. Hughes 1985; Hughes and Lefort 1986.