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What are World Heritage Irrigation Sites (WHIS)?

The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, ICID is a global network of irrigation, drainage, and flood management experts. It recognises irrigation structures of international significance on the lines of World Heritage Sites recognised by the UNESCO, every year. This year 4 sites from India have made it to the list. 

Why in News?

This year four sites in India have received the World Heritage Irrigation Structure (WHIS) tag. The sites are namely

  1. Cumbum Tank, Andhra Pradesh
  2. Kurnool-Cuddapah Canal, Andhra Pradesh
  3. Porumamilla Tank (Anantharaja Sagaram), Andhra Pradesh
  4. Dhampur Lake in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg

Other globally recognised sites this year also included four structures in China, three from Japan and two from Iran. Japan has 42 structures in all making it the country with the highest number of WHIS sites and is followed by China with 23 such sites. India, Iran and Sri Lanka have 6 WHIS sites each.  

Objectives of WHIS: 

The main objectives of recognition as a “World Heritage Irrigation Structures” are:

  1. Tracing the history of and understanding the evolution of irrigation in the civilizations across the world.
  2. 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; 
  3. To learn the philosophy and wisdom on sustainable irrigation from these structures; and
  4. To protect/preserve these historical irrigation structures

Criteria to be classified as WHIS

The structures that make it to the list need to pass the following criteria

  1. It should be more than 100 years old structure
  2. It must fall under one of the various categories listed below
  • Dams (operational largely for irrigation purpose)
  • Water storage structures such as tanks for irrigation
  • Barrages and other water diversion structures
  • Canal Systems
  • Old waterwheels 
  • Old shadow
  1. Agriculture drainage structures
  2. Any site or structure functionally related to present or past agricultural water management activity
  3. The structure must be a representative milestone or turning points in the development of an irrigated agriculture. 
  4. It must also bear exceptional testimony to the development of agriculture should have lead to an increase in the food production and improvement of the economic condition of farmers
  5. The structure should have been ahead of its times in terms of project formulation, the designing, the engineering, the construction techniques used, dimensions of the structure itself, quantum of water diverted, command size.
  6. The structure should have made an outstanding contribution to enhancing food production, livelihood opportunities, rural prosperity, and poverty alleviation in the region they are present in

Benefits of being declared as WHIS

  1. Once a structure is declared as the World Heritage Irrigation Structures it would lead to its benefits in irrigation and drainage by providing an understanding of the factors that make the heritage structures sustainable and learn lessons therefrom
  2. It would also provide an educational opportunity for professionals, students and population
  3. Recognition as a WHIS can draw the attention of the concerned governments to provide with necessary resources to maintain the WHISs.
  4. ICID also provides small scale technical guidance to the project through its team of experts for the projects sustainability, conservation and safe management

What is ICID?

The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) was established in 1950. It is a leading scientific, technical, international not-for-profit, non-governmental organization. It consists of a professional network of experts from around the globe who excel in the fields of irrigation, drainage, and flood management. ICID aims to promote a sustainable agriculture water management system which in turn would achieve a water-secure world. It aims to free the world of poverty and hunger through sustainable rural development.


How many sites have received WHIS tag from India in 2020

Four sites have received WHIS tag from ICID this year

Which sites have received WHIS tag from India?

Recently 4 sites have received WHIS tag from India namely, Kumbum Tank, Andhra Pradesh, Kurnool-Cuddapah Canal, Andhra Pradesh, Porumamilla Tank (Anantharaja Sagaram), Andhra Pradesh, Dhampur Lake in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg

What are World Heritage Irrigation Sites?

These are agricultural drainage sites which are over 100 years old selected by ICID for their contribution to mankind

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