From Royal Canal to Neglected Canal? Changing Use and Management of a Traditional Canal Irrigation System in Peri-Urban Kathmandu Valley

Shrestha, Anushiya; Roth, Dik; Yakami, Saroj


In this chapter we discuss the changing uses and management of a traditional canal irrigation system against the background of processes of urbanization in Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Until urbanization of Kathmandu Valley took off in the 1980s, the management of stream-fed canal irrigation systems had been a priority of both state agencies and the population that depended on agriculture-based livelihoods. The name rajkulo (royal canal) given to these systems expresses the historical interests of (royal) state actors in canal maintenance and management. Fed by a stream called Mahadev Khola in Dadhikot, a peri-urban village in Kathmandu Valley, Mahadev Khola Rajkulo is such a traditional canal irrigation system. Using an in-depth case study of this system, we analyse the interlinkages of demographic, socio-environmental, economic and local political dynamics with the changing canal uses and management. More specifically, we discuss how and why various actors became associated with, or dissociated from, canal use and management in recent times, and what these processes mean for water access, rights and security. We reflect on the implications of these changes for canal management and canal-related conflicts, against the background of national urban policies that formally aim to conserve agricultural land in Kathmandu Valley, but stimulate urban expansion in practice.