Title: Irrigation traditions, roots of modern irrigation knowledge

Authors: M.W. Ertsen

Addresses: Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Land and Water Management, Stevinweg 1, 2628 CN Delft, The Netherlands

Abstract: The paper illustrates how different irrigation artefacts can be understood as outcomes of underlying, historically grown, colonial technological regimes, and how these regimes still determine modern irrigation practice. The discussion centres around water discharge measurement structures in British India and the Netherlands East Indies. Adjustability is the key difference between the two areas. In general, the British structures were not continuously adjustable, as they were designed for constant flow. Most British designs were based on famine relief, spreading water thinly over a vast area to supplement rainfall. Operation should be simple. The British needed a discharge structure, delivering a fixed flow without the need for regular adjustment. The Dutch needed an adjustable discharge measurement structure. The mutual presence of sugar cane and peasant crops (mostly rice) in the same irrigated area is a primary cause, as areas of sugar cane and rice fluctuated over the seasons and years. Despite the different circumstances in independent India and Indonesia, colonial irrigation design rules (regimes) still do structure to a considerable extent irrigation activities of engineers and irrigators.

Keywords: irrigation; Netherlands East Indies; discharge measurement; technological traditions; technological regimes.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTPM.2002.003150

International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management, 2002 Vol.2 No.4, pp.387-406

Published online: 13 Jul 2003 *

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