Direct and indirect benefits and potential disbenefits of irrigation: evidence and lessons uri icon


  • On the other hand, the paper also suggests that irrigation can also lead to some negative or adverse social, health and environmental impacts. Such potential disbenefits of irrigation include displacement of people as a result of new irrigation development, public health risks from water-related diseases, irrigation-induced land and water degradation, loss of biodiversity and river health risks from increased river water withdrawals for irrigation. Often, negative social and environmental consequences adversely affect the poor more than the non-poor people. Most potential adverse impacts of irrigation are not due to irrigation water per se, but due to inadequacies and ineffectiveness of institutions and management to address them. Moreover, many of the potential adverse impacts can be avoided or minimized with effective planning, design and management of the projects.
  • This paper develops and offers a generic typology of direct and indirect benefits and potential disbenefits of irrigation that can be used to identify and influence different types of irrigation benefits and disbenefits for enhancing net benefits to the poor. Copyright (c) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • This paper is a part of the multi-country study carried out by the author at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in collaboration with national partners in six Asian countries (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam) during 2001-2002. Based mainly on primary data collected from 5400 households in 26 irrigation systems, the study examines in detail the benefits and potential disbenefits of irrigation. The results indicate that irrigation benefits vary widely across systems, and depend on a range of factors including local conditions, system management, irrigation policy, and broader economic and political factors. The study suggests that indirect irrigation benefits could be larger than direct benefits through the multiplier effect. The distribution of irrigation benefits also varies widely by type of the benefit and the socio-economic status of the beneficiaries. The direct benefits generally accrue to landholders while a significant part of the indirect benefits accrue to the landless and small farmers, positively contributing to their livelihoods. Further, the overall benefits of irrigation are large when irrigation-improving interventions, investments in infrastructure, improvements in system management and service delivery to farmers, are implemented in an integrated manner.

publication date

  • 2007
  • 2007