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Challenges of Water Management

readers. Further, it also lists the organi- Challenges of Water sations working on promoting the con- Management Global Perspectives on Integrated Water Resources Management: A Resource Kit by Vasudha Pangare, Ganesh Pangare, Viraj Shah, B R Neupane and P Somasekhar Rao; Academic Foundation, New Delhi in association with the World Water Institute, Pune, 2006;

Challenges of Water


Global Perspectives on Integrated Water Resources Management: A Resource Kit

by Vasudha Pangare, Ganesh Pangare, Viraj Shah, B R Neupane and P Somasekhar Rao; Academic Foundation, New Delhi in association with the World Water Institute, Pune, 2006; pp 212, Rs 995.


ross mismanagement and exploitation of water resources have been reflected in increasing conflict between different users and uses of water. This process is coupled with extensive unplanned growth of urban centres, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, uncontrolled industrialisation, increasing water demand for food production and expanding populations that are putting pressure on limited freshwater resources. The need for finding new and innovative approaches to address the problem has led to the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) which offers the means to move away from the earlier sub-sector approach to a more holistic or integrated approach to water management. This approach is taken up within the context of increasing scarcity (water stress), inter-sectoral conflicts, pollution and lack of technical understanding on issues of water catchments. The attention to sustainable water resource management bears testimony to an increasing sensitivity to water resource issues at a theoretical scale and IWRM provides a conceptual framework and tool to mitigate past abuse and to ensure the sustainability of water resources in the future (Capnet 2005). The objective of integrated water resources development and management is to ensure optimal and sustainable use of water resources for economic and social development, while protecting and improving the ecological value of the environment. However, the conceptual understanding of IWRM differs across ideologies (from neoclassical to neo-Marxists) and hence is subject to diverse and dissimilar interpretations.

The book under review aims to fill this gap by demystifying the academic understanding of the “least understood” IWRM concept for development professionals, civil society organisations, local communities, government officials and private sectors. This is an interesting “coffee table” book (hard covered with glossy pages along with 15 full page attention-grabbing illustrations sometime more appealing than the text it supports!) that is divided into two broad parts. The first part tries explaining the normative, strategic and operative dimensions of IWRM while the second part presents 12 case studies to illustrate the concepts discussed in the first part.

Understanding Integrated Water Resources Management

The book illustrates IWRM as a concept that recognises the interdependence and inter-linkages between different uses of water in the context of limited freshwater resources and the fact that the available water is increasingly becoming polluted. The different water users (agriculture, domestic and industrial) are coming in conflict due to lack of regulatory mechanisms for its management. The waterrelatedchallenges, as the authors suggests, include meeting basic needs such as providing safe drinking water, protecting ecosystems, increased urbanisation, securing food supplies (more crops per drop), meeting industry’s demand and increased energy and water demand which has negative impact on water availability in future. The management challenges are waterrelated risks and hazards (drought, floods, etc), competition over poorly allocated resource, economic value of water and paying for its services, ensuring scientific knowledge and water governance. Understanding IWRM also means knowing the origin of the concept through tracing its history. The authors locate the theory of IWRM in the Dublin Principles that discussed the finiteness and economic valuation of the resource through participatory and women centric approach to its management. The evolution of the concept of IWRM is summarised for the simplification of the readers. Further, it also lists the organisations working on promoting the concepts that ranges from Global Water Partnerships, United Nations, UNDP to World Bank and ADB. According to the authors, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), UNESCO and International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) are some of the organisations that are researching on the issue of IWRM. Further, apart from discussing the principles (equity, ecological integrity and efficiency) and crosscutting elements in IWRM implementation, the authors also illustrate IWRM as a risk reduction strategy against extreme hydrological cycles such as floods and droughts that have serious economic implications for individual and household economics.

The first part of the book (pp 82), as claimed in the preface, fails to provide clear understanding on IWRM and in fact, presents a hotchpotch of all what is available under IWRM without an analytical framework or distinctively showing the different point of views. A recently published article [Shah and Kuppen 2006], instead does the job in just few pages. Shah and Kuppen showed that the “IWRM package” included a clutch of (i) a national water policy so that there is cohesive normative framework; (ii) water law and regulatory framework for coordinated action; (iii) recognition of river basin as a unit for planning and management;

(iv) treating water as an economic good to reflect its scarcity value; (v) creation of water rights; and (vi) participatory water resource management and inclusion of women (ibid, pp 3413-14). The reviewer agrees that the above definition by Shah and Kuppen is one of the many perspectives but the authors of the Resource Kit on IWRM fail to map them clearly and as a result, the readers are confused. In fact, on some aspects of IWRM such as participation of women, the book demonstrates, a lack of knowledge. Under the subheading of ‘Institutionalising the Participation of Women’, the authors write “although participation of women has been recognised as a key principle of IWRM, much more needs to be done towards institutionalising the participation of women in IWRM processes and implementation. There is not much information available on how this can be achieved (pp 59-60). Women’s involvement in drinking water and sanitation projects in Asia, Africa and South America has been

Economic and Political Weekly January 27, 2007 documented earlier that has shown some aspect of possible integration in complex situations [Visscher, Bury, Gould and Moriarty 1999; IRC 2004].1The irony is that the authors present this case (case no 12) but abstain from using the material to show possible women’s participation that has increased accessibility of water for women. Women’s involvement in watershed management programmes in India is well documented (also by the first author of the book under review) and the readers deserve at least a review of these in a resource book.

Critiquing Integrated Water Resources Management

The book also provides for the constraints and other questions related to IWRM. It lists some of the constraints such as lack of collection and use of social data, high level of technical capacity, lack of integration of cultural aspects of water and much emphasised decentralisation vs centralisation debate in planning. A truly integrated planning means interdisciplinaryplanning with a consciousness of hydrological cycle, land and water use and demand and supply management systems. This means that an integrative planning is more decentralised than a community managed planning. They further show the problem in using a hydrological unit for implementation of an integrative planning as it does not necessarily coincide with the political or administrative unit. However, what is missing is the critique of some of the popular concepts used in IWRM terminology. For example, in IWRM framework, different users of water are referred as stakeholders. The concept assumes that all are equals in terms of power to impact decisions-making structures which is challenged by scholars and practitioners as an ethically neutral concept. Another issue is of recognising water as an economic good according to the Dublin principle. Water as an economic good implies recognising that past failures has been due to the absence of this concept. However, there is no guarantee that managing water as an economic good would lead to achieving efficient and equitable use, and of encouraging conservation and protection of water resources. On the contrary, recent experiences of increasing commoditisation, marketisation and privatisation of natural resources show just the opposite. The book does not come out with a precise argument that could contribute to this debate and mentions it subtly without much in-depth analysis.

Case Studies

The second part of the book documents 12 case studies (including three from India) to illustrate different aspects of IWRM from different parts of the world. They capture different regions and scale of implementation – from trans-boundary to local river basin management. The three Indian cases, two are from Andhra Pradesh (AP) and one is on the Ganges river basin in Uttaranchal. The first case is where state level water vision was applied in Warangal district in AP through land and water management plan (LWMP) that had set up a process of coordination between different departments. What is unclear is how this has lead to water resources being conserved and distributed in a better fashion than the situation existed before. The second case is the project documentation (probably from the quarterly reports of the

Economic and Political Weekly January 27, 2007

project!) of Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems Projects (APFAMGS) that was launched in 638 villages in seven districts of AP. The case illustrates number of outputs\results of the project till June 2005 (it is still undergoing I believe) straight in the logical framework analysis (LFA) mode. It ends without a concluding paragraph (in fact it concludes with one box and two tables) and does not show what happened to indebted marginal farmers it mentions in the second paragraph of the case. The third is a process documentation of the creation of multi-stakeholders platform in Ganges basin in Uttaranchal. The other cases are also presented (for restoring water flows in Deschutes River, Oregon, US; catchment management in Ping River Basin, Thailand; management of Laguna de Bay, Philippines; managing the Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia; dialogue in Bang Pakong estuary in eastern Thailand, decentralisation through policy reforms in Lerma Chapala Basin, Mexico; sharing the Mekong River Basin in China and transboundary cooperation in Europe through Rhine River Network) in a similar project document format and provides little understanding on the major successes\failures of using IWRM concept or aspects of integration in a clear-cut layout. All the cases lack narratives and insights into qualitative aspects of the process that was undertaken to work under IWRM framework and hence look more like a project report. The last case study is a summary of IRC’s drinking water supply and sanitation project that again refrains from using the rich qualitative material available in the main reference and instead presents the summary without adequately mentioning the background and context. Some of the cases are reproduction from ADB’s and IWMI’s project documents with poor editing that makes the text uninteresting to read.

With all its limitations, the resource kit provides a good compilation and summary of other resource materials available and therefore can be used in understanding the evolution of IWRM concept historically. It brings forth the message that IWRM is a systematic process for the sustainable development, allocation and monitoring of water resource use in the context of social, economic and environmental objective and contrasts with the sectoral approach that applies in many countries. However, an operationalisation of this idea needs further enquiry and analysis which could be the scope for the authors to consider for the second coffee table book on the same subject in future.2 Email:



1 A consistent involvement of women in Northern Province, Zambia has produced positive results in community motivation. The imposition of the involvement of women by Irish Aid, theimplementing agency, meant that even people who did not consider gender a worthwhile issue had to consider how it would affect their actions. Where previously women who spoke out were branded “big mouths” and ostracised, now community motivation towardswell building and maintenance improved in some villages as a result of their involvement. All of the committees set up by Irish Aid have at least a 50 per cent female membership and in some, women have taken up one or more of the roles of chair, secretary andtreasurer. The involvement of women in the committees has resulted in greater community involvement in some villages in the siting and construction of wells and in contributions towards their upkeep [Visscher, Bury, Gould and Moriarty 1999: 52].

2 Or rather third coffee table book as the first book by the same leading authors has been published in 2006 itself and was reviewed by Iyer (2006).


Capnet (2005): ‘Tutorial on Basic Principles of Integrated Water Resources Management’, Capnet-UNDP Collaboration.

Global Water Partnership (2000): ‘Integrated Water Resources Management’, TAC Background Papers, No 4, p 67,

– (2002): ‘ToolBox, Integrated Water Resources Management’,

IRC (2004): ‘Integrated Water Resource Management and the Domestic Water and Sanitation Sub-Sector’ Thematic Overview Paper by International Water and Sanitation Centre, Delft, The Netherlands.

Iyer, Ramaswamy S (2006): ‘Mild Towards Government, Harsh Towards NGOs’, Review of the book – Springs of Life: India’s WaterResources by Ganesh Pangare, VasudhaPangare and Binayak Das, Economic and Political Weekly, February 25.

Shah, Tushaar and Barbara van Kuppen (2006): ‘Is India Ripe for Integrated Water Resources Management? Fitting Water Policy to National Development Context’, Economic and Political Weekly, August 5, pp 3413-21.

Visscher, Jan Teun, Peter Bury, Toby Gould and Patrick Moriarty (1999): Integrated WaterResource Management in Water and SanitationProjects: Lessons from Projects in Africa, Asiaand South America, International Water and Sanitation Centre, Delft, The Netherlands.

Economic and Political Weekly January 27, 2007

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