World Heritage Irrigation Structures

At the 63rd meeting of the 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 was set up to work out objectives, guidelines, and procedures to select the historical irrigation structures.

Nominations invited for WHIS 2021 (latest by 30 June 2021):


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

  • Tracing the history of and understanding the evolution of irrigation in 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 structures or facilities to be considered for recognition shall fulfill the 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 for irrigation,
    • Barrages and other water diversion structures,
    • Canal Systems,
    • Old waterwheels,
    • Old shadouf,
    • Agriculture drainage structures,
    • Any site or structure functionally related to present or past agricultural water management activity.

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 World Heritage Irrigation Structure (WHIS) by including it in an “ICID World List of Heritage Irrigation Structures" and presenting a “World Heritage Irrigation Structure” Plaque citing the salient features of the WHIS. 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 WHIS would be publicized through ICID media channels.

What benefits will flow from recognition as the World 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 therefrom;
  • Education opportunity for professionals, students and the general public; and
  • Drawing the attention of the concerned governments to provide sufficient resources to maintain the WHISs.

What does listing as an ICID Heritage Irrigation Structure means?

For UNESCO World Heritage Sites, inclusion means maintaining the status quo forever. But it would be incorrect to stipulate the same for irrigation structure, as the people have the right to replace the 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 safety management as long as possible. ICID through various kinds of published material should bring these HIS into public knowledge and the role they have played in achieving food security.


For 2021 Nominations, kindly apply at The last date for completing the submission process is 31st June 2021

(a) Application: Applications are invited and announced at the beginning of every year through an online submission processAny National Committee/Committee of ICID can nominate or send a proposal for recognizing historical irrigation structures meeting the criteria as prescribed.  The NC shall obtain a ‘letter of support’ from the relevant authority (ies). The application deadline is 30th June of every respective year. 

(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 a Heritage Irrigation Structure should fulfill one or more of the following criteria.

  • The structure should represent a milestone/turning points in the development of irrigated agriculture and should bear exceptional testimony to the development of agriculture and an increase in food production along with the improvement of the economic condition of farmers;
  • 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]
  • Must have made an outstanding contribution to enhancing food production, livelihood opportunities, rural prosperity, and poverty alleviation in a region;
  • Was innovative in its ideas at the time of its construction;
  • Contributed to the evolution of efficient and contemporary engineering theories and practices;
  • Is an example of attention to environmental aspects in its design and construction;
  • Was an example of engineering marvel or excellence at the time of its construction;
  • Was unique in some positive and constructive way;
  • Bears the stamp of a cultural tradition or a civilization of past the past;
  • 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:

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

(e) Contact: The ICID Central Office may be contacted for further information on the Recognition of WHIS:

Secretary General, ICID
48 Nyaya Marg, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi 110021, India

Tel: +91-11-26116837, 2611 5679, 2467 9532, Fax: +91-11-26115962

E-mail:, Website:

Scheme (PDF)

Nomination Form (PDF)

Nominations Invited for World Heritage Irrigation Structures (WHIS) 2021

For 2021 Nominations, kindly apply at The last date for completing the submission process is 30th June 2021

Nominations are invited from ICID National Committees for selection of “World Heritage Irrigation Structures” (WHIS) that includes both old operational irrigation structures as well as those having archival value. A Task Team is set up every year to select historical drainage/drainage structures as received from various National Committees (NCs) to give recognition to the historical irrigation structures on the lines of World Heritage Sites (as recognized by UNESCO). National Committee can nominate more than one structure, using separate nomination form for each. Associated Members and non-member countries can nominate their structures through the neighboring active national committees or by submitting directly to the ICID Central Office.

At the 70th International Executive Council (IEC) meeting held in Bali, Indonesia, September 2019, 17 World Heritage Irrigation Structures (WHIS) was approved for inclusion in the ICID Register of World Heritage Irrigation Structures available on ICID website

The next batch of the World Heritage Irrigation Structures will be included in the ICID Register of World Heritage Structures and presented a “Plaque”, citing the salient features of the WHIS during the 72nd IEC Meeting to be held at Marrakesh, Morocco, September 2021.


The 71st IEC Meeting held virtually in December 2020, accorded its approval to sixteen irrigation structures from: China (4): Tianbao Weir, Longshou Canal and Ancient Luohe River Irrigation District, 36 Weirs of Baishaxi Stream and Sangyuanwei Polder Embankment System; India (4): Cumbum Tank, Dhamapur Lake, KC Canal (Kurnool-Cuddapah Canal) and Porumamilla Tank (Anantharaja Sagaram); Iran (4): Zarch Qanat, Moon Qanat, Qanat of Qasem Abad and FazlAli Khan Qanat; Japan (3): Tenguiwa Irrigation System, Bizenkyo Irrigation System and JyosaiGokuchi Irrigation System; and Korea (1): Goseong Dumbeong (Goseong Coastal Area Pond Irrigation System).


French Version:


List of Recognized World Heritage Irrigation Structures