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ICID Heritage Irrigation Structures



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At the 63rd meeting of International Executive Council (IEC) held at Adelaide, Australia on 28 June 2012, President Gao Zhanyi suggested that a process for recognition of the historical irrigation structures on the lines of World Heritage Sites as recognized by UNESCO shall be initiated. Accordingly, a Task Team comprising of the following members, was set up to work out objectives, guidelines and procedures to select the historical irrigation structures.


Scope and Objective


It is proposed that a historical irrigation and/or drainage structure fulfilling the criterion laid down in this document shall be recognized as “Heritage Irrigation Structure” (HIS). The main objectives of recognition as a “Heritage Irrigation Structures” are:

  • Tracing the history of and understanding the evolution of irrigation in the civilizations across the world.
  • To select and collect information on historical irrigation structures from around the world, understand their significant achievements and gather knowledge about the unique features that have sustained the project for such a long period;
  • To learn the philosophy and wisdom on sustainable irrigation from these structures; and
  • To protect/preserve these historical irrigation structures



The type of the structures or facilities to be considered for recognition shall fulfil following criterion:

  • The structure shall be more than 100 years old;
  • The structures shall fall under one of the following categories:
  • Dams (operational largely for irrigation purpose),
  • Water storage structures such as tanks,
  • Barrages and other water diversion structures,
  • Canal Systems
  • Old waterwheels, 
  • Old shadouf, etc.

How are the structures recognized?


A historical irrigation and drainage structure fulfilling the criterion laid down under section III c, based on the recommendation of the Jury to be constituted each year following the guidelines, as presented in section III b, is recognized as Heritage Irrigation Structure (HIS) by including it in an “ICID World List of Heritage Irrigation Structures and presenting a “Heritage Irrigation Structure” Plaque citing the salient features of the HIS. The Plaque will be awarded to the National Committees for onward transmission to the authorities responsible for the running and maintenance of the structure for displaying prominently on the body of the structure. The ICID World List of HIS would be publicized through ICID media channels.


What benefits will flow from recognition as the Heritage Irrigation Structures?


The process of documentation, recognition and appropriate management of the Heritage Irrigation Structures will benefit the irrigation and drainage fraternity as well as the society in general by providing:

  • Understanding of the factors that make the heritage structures sustainable and learn lessons there from;
  • Education opportunity for professionals, students and general public; and
  • Drawing attention of the concerned governments to provide sufficient resources to maintain the HISs.

What does listing as an ICID Heritage Irrigation Structure means?


For UNESCO World Heritage Sites, inclusion means maintaining status quo forever. But it would be incorrect to stipulate the same for irrigation structure, as the people have the right to replace older structure with more efficient ones for better water use efficiency. ICID may provide small scale technical guidance to the project authority through a team of experts from ICID for its further sustainability, conservation and safe management as long as possible. ICID through various kinds of published material (Coffee table publications, web pages etc) should bring these HIS into the public knowledge and the role they have played in achieving food security.




(a) Application


Any National Committee/Committee of ICID can nominate or send a proposal for recognizing historical irrigation structures meeting the criteria prescribed below, in the format prescribed at Annexure. The NC shall obtain a ‘letter of support’ from the relevant authority (ies).


(b) Jury


The President shall constitute a Panel of Judges, every year broadly following the composition below for adjudication with the objective to provide recognition of Heritage Irrigation Structures:

Chairman, PCSO - Chairman
Chairman/Ex-Chair, WG-HIST - Member
Nominees from 3 NCs of ICID as Members
Secretary General, ICID - Member-Secretary


(c) Criterion


The structure recognized as an Heritage Irrigation Structure should fulfill one or more of the following criterion.

  1. The structure should represent a milestone / turning points in development of irrigated agriculture and should bear an exceptional testimony to development of agriculture and increase in food production along with the improvement of economic condition of farmers;
  2. The structure that was ahead of its times in terms of project formulation, engineering design, construction techniques, dimensions of the structure itself, quantum of water diverted, and size of the command; [any one or more of these]
  3. Must have made outstanding contribution to enhancing food production, livelihood opportunities, rural prosperity, and poverty alleviation in a region;
  4. Was innovative in its ideas at the time of its construction;
  5. Contributed to the evolution of efficient and contemporary engineering theories and practices;
  6. Is an example of attention to environmental aspects in its design and construction;
  7. Was an example of engineering marvel or excellence at the time of its construction;
  8. Was unique in some positive and constructive way;
  9. Bears the stamp of a cultural tradition or a civilization of past the past;
  10. The structure is an outstanding example of Operation & Management over a long period of time;

(d) Financial


ICID will seek to create a fund to meet the requirements of resources for:

  1. Processing the applications,
  2. Providing certain technical support to the HIS for maintaining the structure in good condition,
  3. Developing material for dissemination of HIS, and
  4. Bringing out publications based on the lessons learnt.

(e) Contact


The ICID Central Office may be contacted for further information on the Recognition of HIS,


Secretary General, ICID
48 Nyaya Marg, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi 110021
Tel: +91-11-26116837, 2611 5679, 2467 9532, Fax: +91-11-26115962
E-mail: icid@icid.org, Website: www.icid.org




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