Irrigation development in colonial Java: the history of the Solo Valley works from a technological regime perspective
by W. Ravesteijn
International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management (IJTPM), Vol. 2, No. 4, 2002

Abstract: The circumstances surrounding the abandonment of the enormous irrigation project in the Solo Valley in colonial Indonesia (East Java) have always remained slightly shrouded in mystery. On the one hand, most engineers involved in the Dutch East Indian Department of Public Works could not understand why, in 1903, the Dutch government called off the project - which had been started in 1893 but was suspended in 1898 for budgetary reasons - and thus decided to deviate from the recommendations to continue the project issued by a special state commission. On the other hand, the reorganisation and the general budget cuts the engineers feared never took place. An analysis using the technological regime concept, alongside other concepts and insights from technological development theory, is shown to offer some clarity. The Solo Valley works formed part of an extensive irrigation program launched in 1890 and completed some 30 years later. Just like the other works, the Solo project was set up in the spirit of a specific technological regime, which emerged in 1885 and was characterised by detailed preliminary research and the design of facilities for an entire irrigation area; this is what I term the 'T'echnical Irrigation Regime''. After 1920, irrigation projects were embarked upon in which more attention was paid to management and agricultural aspects and which were carried out in a piecemeal fashion. This was governed by a different technological regime which was the result of experience gained between 1885 and 1920; this is what I term the ''Technical-Agricultural Irrigation Regime''. On the one hand, the Solo Valley works project contributed to the shift from the Technical Irrigation Regime to the Technical-Agricultural Irrigation Regime, while on the other hand, it was abandoned because of this regime shift that had partially taken place by 1903. Finally, the gradual nature of technological regime shifts to be abstracted from this historical case is emphasised.

Online publication date: Sun, 13-Jul-2003

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