Sustainable Irrigation Project in Lao PDR: Effective Management of Pump Irrigation Projects in Mekong River and its Tributaries
Fongsamuth Phengphaengsy*

*Lao student

Department of International Environmental Agriculture and Science
Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

Lecturer of irrigation, Department of Water Resource Engineering

National University of Lao PDR

Irrigation is the major agricultural technique applied for paddy cultivation due to there is no rainfall in dry season. Therefore, government invested a lot of money in developing the irrigation sector in order to increase rice production and stable self-sufficiency. In particular, expanding the dry-season irrigated agriculture areas have been heavily promoted during 1996-2000. Government initiated a radical measure to increase rice production by distributing more than 8,000 pump units along Mekong River and its tributaries in 3 main plains of Vientiane, Savannakhet and Khammuan Provinces. This project boosted the paddy production remarkably from 1.4 million tones in 1996 to 2.2 million tones in 2000, and then government declared rice self-sufficiency in this year.

Despite their apparent attractiveness in terms of potential productivity, pumping irrigation schemes become to have several problems. Most schemes have poor performance and operate below capacity due to the lack of lesson on proper management. After 2000, farmers in pump scheme have refused growing rice in dry season. As a result, dry-season planted area has been gradually decreasing from 102,000 ha in 2001 to 84,000 ha in 2002 and 81,000 ha in 2003. This left from target of 120,000 ha in 2003. Finally, many schemes had largely become totally disillusioned and abandon. Therefore, pumping project assessment will be needed to identify the problems and trial for solution in order to improve and sustain the projects. The study was conducted in 3 pump projects: Kao Leo 2 pumping irrigation project located at Mekong River in Vientiane Municipality, Pak Khagnoung pump project at Num Ngum River in Vientiane province and Ton Hen pump project at Se-Bangfai River in Savannakhet province. Farm households of 40% in each scheme were interviewed concerning their dissatisfactory of using pump irrigation scheme for dry season cultivation. The study classifies project problems and particularly evaluates irrigation facilities, water distribution issue, actual planted areas, water fee collection and Water User Group.

The result showed that decreasing percentage of water fee collection, increasing electricity charge, weakness of Water User Group and poor condition of irrigation facilities - canals, pumps and water gates - are the main factors, resulting to projects become problems. Kao Leo 2 project has serious performance. Only 25% of total project areas were cultivated. Water irrigation fee could be collected only 25% of total number of farmers. This was due to farmers misunderstanding of their responsibility to the irrigation system and also irrigation system itself was incomplete in function properly with poor water distribution. More than 80% of interview farmers complained water was not enough for their cultivation. The study concludes that Irrigation water fee is the key component in order to maintain scheme operating well. Without this fee, irrigation facilities are unable to maintain and then water supply is poorly distributed. Water User Group also plays an important key as they suppose to responsible for water distribution and encourage member to become understand of their responsibilities for irrigation system.

Keywords: Irrigation scheme, pump irrigation, water distribution, water user group, Mekong River, dry-season cultivation