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Water Governance through Partnerships/Networks

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Smita Mishra Panda,
I am presently a faculty with the KIIT School of Rural Management, Bhubaneswar, Orissa (INDIA). I teach in the areas of Natural Resource Management and Gender Issues in Development. I am also the CapNet India Coordinator. My current areas of interest incl

Keyword(s): IWRM, Partnerships, Networks, Interdisciplinary, Integration
AbstractIt is being increasingly realised that there is a need for integrated water resources management (IWRM) in the context of water management and sustainable development. IWRM concerns many uses and aspects of water cutting across sectoral and regional divisions. The uses range from urban industrial use at one end of the spectrum to the ecosystem use in forests at the other end. Similarly, there is a wide variation in availability of water, coupled with a variety of socio- economic conditions, all leading to further challenges to the practice of IWRM. Furthermore, there is a plethora of stakeholders across sectors, regions, disciplines and hierarchies resulting in overlaps in functions, responsibilities, authorities and interests in water management. In such a scenario often-aired questions are about ‘how’ IWRM can be facilitated and ‘who’ will implement the action part of IWRM. These questions assume that (a) the information and knowledge required for IWRM are readily available, (b) the policies for IWRM can be formulated with little thought and planning, (c) the ‘implementation’ agencies/actors down the line (in the policy-knowledge-application- adoption hierarchy) can be found and trained to implement IWRM like any other development project. All these assumptions are now being challenged and there are serious doubts cast on integrated/holistic approaches. Integration is a slow process as it involves changes in established norms of knowledge, policy and practice of which little is known in the water sector. Further there is a lacunae in the understanding of how integration of IWRM ‘knowledge’ can take place, when the knowledge is structured in different compartments/disciplines involving specific disciplinary mandates, with contradicting world views/values and organised hierarchically with massive entry barriers that limit the extent and nature of participation of several key stakeholders in IWRM. This paper looks at two important issues – a partnership/network approach to water governance and the nature of capacity building required in view of IWRM. The two issues are interlinked and there is a need to look at them in tandem for better water governance. A network approach (where a group individuals or organisations – grassroots, movements, policy making, informal, academia/formal research etc.) working preferably on interdisciplinary water issues exchange information and/or work in collaboration on issues such as gender and water, people’s livelihoods, ecosystems and economies dependent on water etc. A network mode of working is a different ‘way’ of working that comes with a set of institutional arrangements that can promote ‘integration’ across and among different actors/organisations. The purpose would be to develop the critical mass, insights and collective voice to influence knowledge, policy and practice in the water sector. A network format brings greater focus, systems perspectives, collective wisdom, social relevance, accountabilities and operational flexibilities compared to working with conventional organisational mandates. It is an interactive process leading to strengthening the individual autonomy to create a collective voice through discussions/discursive processes, imbued with democratic and ecological values. Linking up with other networks and their linkages should be part of this effort. The process of evaluation has to be built (internal) into the process of networking. It is expected that the guidelines and benchmarks for effective IWRM suitable to the developing country situation would evolve indigenously and does not necessarily have to follow the prescribed definitions and principles.
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