More food for less water in southern Asia

07 Aug 2019

Irrigation farming in Bangladesh, India and Nepal faces major challenges, not least because of climate change. Modernisation is required to achieve improvements in irrigation system management. A study by Tractebel provides the basis for concrete measures.


Rice is one of the staple foods in southern Asia. It needs large amounts of water to be grown and population increase and climate change are major challenges for irrigation farming in the region. Modernisation is required to achieve improvements in irrigation system management and to control water flows more precisely. A study by Tractebel commissioned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provides the basis for concrete measures. The recommendations of the study are helping the ADB to optimise its procedures for project preparation. This will shorten the time it takes to provide financing.

The experts from Tractebel developed a scientific basis for supporting ADB and its member-countries for prioritizing investments to secure more efficient, reliable and climate-friendly food supply in the developing countries. In their study they examined how innovative and intelligent water-saving technologies and management systems can be promoted in the planning and implementation of capital investments by the ADB in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. They also worked out the benchmarking of institutional and systematic performance and were concerned with the development of additional capacities. In addition, they carried out pilot trial schemes and evaluated them.

Benefits for millions of farmers

The findings of the Tractebel study led the ADB to initiate the Madhya Pradesh Irrigation Efficiency Project in India. It is making 500 million US Dollars available for the construction of a new irrigation system for smallholders and is supporting the rehabilitation of another major project. Current projects in progress in Nepal and Bangladesh will also benefit from the results of the study.

Since the findings of the study have been incorporated in ADB’s knowledge products, they now contribute to reduced project preparation times. This will allow to bring the benefits of measures on-line more quickly. The innovative tools developed by Tractebel are now also used in other partner countries in South Asia. Water managers in these countries benefit from a carry-on capacity building by applying the innovative assessment methods to their projects. Ultimately the recommended modernisations could help secure the existence of millions of farmers in the region on a sustainable basis.

A study by Tractebel helps to secure livelihoods of small farmers in Bangladesh, India and Nepal

Population increase and climate change are major challenges for irrigation farming in South Asia.

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