G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Approach in Water Governance in Lao PDR: Cases of Hydropower and Irrigation

List of Authors: Jusi Sari
Publisher: Tampere University Press
Publication year: 2013
ISBN: 978-951-44-9096-5
eISBN: 978-951-44-9097-2

Water resources management and development are expected to become more complex and challenging and to involve new uncertainties as water development increases and accelerates in different water use sectors and is coupled with increasing population, urbanisation, and climate change. Hence, water resources need to be managed in more integrated and sustainable way, both in Lao PDR and in the whole Mekong Basin area. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has become a universal paradigm of enhancing and promoting sustainable and equal water resources management and use.

The doctoral thesis analyses application of the IWRM approach and related principles of integration, decentralisation and participation in the development and management of water resources in Laotian water regime and at water use sectors of hydropower and irrigation. The research aims to enhance understanding of the structural and procedural characteristics of the Laotian water management regime that constitute an arena for implementation of IWRM.

The Management and Transition Framework (MTF) and one of its components, Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, have been used for the research to explore processes, institutions, and actors related to water governance reforms including the adoption of the IWRM paradigm, and to increase understanding of the strengths and weaknesses related to different institutional contexts and levels in Laotian water management. Through Action Situations, IAD and MTF have provided a platform or a framework to incorporate actors into the analysis and to produce a richer analysis and understanding of actors involved in the policy arena as well as their features and interactions. The research is also closely attached to the discussion about common-property institutions and their importance to appropriate and sustainable natural resource management/common pool resources (CPR) management.

The rhetoric of the IWRM approach is quite well adopted by the Lao PDR but the actual implementation is still halfway. Significant changes to water management policies have been made and new water policies and legislation among environmental safeguard policies have been developed or are under development in the country. The research highlights the need to integrate social and environmental concerns into national water resource management plans and policies.

One aim of IWRM is to improve water governance by enhancing inclusive decision-making to secure more equal water development decisions for all stakeholders, including communities at the grassroots level. Lao PDR has initiated decentralisation and participation processes in water resources management: irrigation management transfer to local level (Water User Groups), and establishment of a pilot River Basin Committee in Nam Ngum River Basin to serve as the key organisational unit for water resource management at local and regional levels. However, water resources management is still pretty much centralist by nature and does not properly and truly enhance participation of local level government in the management processes in Lao PDR.

Laotian operational environment and political culture ('top-down' governance) represent a unique analysis context for IWRM implementation as it represents one of the last centralized communist regimes and monolithic political/decision-making structures. Therefore, it can provide a more simplified structure, where there are no channels providing local/outside knowledge impacting decision-making compared with complex western governance models. The implementation of IWRM is facing difficulties and constraints, biggest constraints being lack of capacity of water actors and officials especially at lower government (district and village) levels and a sectoral approach to water development and management. In addition, the Government’s ability to build capacity to strengthen institutional structures and procedures among policies and laws is weak.

This doctoral thesis on Laotian IWRM aims to enhance understanding regarding the mechanisms and processes attached to IWRM processes. The research concludes that IWRM and the underlying principles of integration, decentralisation, and participation can improve Laotian water regime by developing it towards sustainable and effective modes of water governance. These three core themes or principles are important and relevant for the research and for studying the implementation of IWRM as participation and decentralisation of governance seek to involve communities and local people to decision-making and increasing ownership to manage and develop water resources. Also, integration of institutional structures among coordination of different administrative levels is highly needed for implementing IWRM. The research emphasises the importance of tailoring IWRM and its core-elements to national and local institutional arrangements and capacities in the specific context of Lao PDR.

Last updated on 2019-21-08 at 23:10