This paper studies primary canals of three traditional irrigation systems in the southern plains of Nepal. It offers a scientific interpretation of the indigenous technology applied to the systems, which facilitates to use the same channel network for irrigation, drainage and flood management. The flood management technology of the farmers by diverting as much discharge as possible to the field channels results in the reduction of discharge towards the downstream part of the main channel. It is depicted in the simulation study that uses the river analysis program HEC-RAS 4.0. A cascade of weirs is found to be the most cost effective and user-friendly option to upgrade these systems preserving the existing irrigation, drainage as well as flood management functions. This study suggests that the conventional irrigation design principles should be applied very cautiously with full knowledge of the existing socio-institutional setting, hydro-ecological regime and indigenous technology for upgrading any traditional irrigation system successfully. The indigenous flood management technology strengthens the emerging concept that the floods in the Ganges plain are to be managed, not controlled.

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