Community Based Water Resources Management: Some Regional Experiences

Community Based Water Resources Management – Some Regional Experiences1 K M Baharul Islam Development Gateway South Asia ABSTRACT Massive economic and industrial development across the world is depleting access to water resources for the poorer and marginalized communities. While available water resources are increasingly put to sever stress due to over exploitation, the communities whose livelihood depends on water resources are being threatened by the lack of access to water.

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Therefore, it is felt that user communities must have a greater share in determining the demand and supply of water through an inclusive and participatory approach. In this process the grassroots communities will become a part of the water management planning and implementation process. Community based water resources management (CWRM) has gained worldwide acceptability and recognition over the years, Local knowledge on traditional water resources management practices became the center-stone of this approach (Devine 2006).

However, CWRM is not free from its share of criticism from different quarters. Conflict among heterogeneous groups with a single community with their complex economic, social and political power structures and cultural contexts often pose a serious challenge to the success of any CWRM programme. (Bruns 2005). Against this backdrop, let us discuss here some of the illustrative experiments in CWRM from the countries in the region namely, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The paper highlights some interested initiatives which are based on principles of community-based water management in order to increased access to water for the grassroots communities. It also considers how people benefitted through their participation in community-based water resources management programmes. Based on a holistic picture that emerges from these experiences, we can clearly conclude that a new trend is gradually emerging that is based on a combination approach to both – demand and supply processes.

It concludes that while various types of community based practices and traditional knowledge enabled community members to access water resources more effectively at the household level, the communitybased management approach is yet to gain a more widespread implementation in other parts of the region which are still heavily dependent on ? government-delivered‘ water supply schemes. Key Words: water resources management, development, community, demand, supply, participatory approach 1 Published in Community Based Water Resources Management in North East India: Lessons from a Global Context.

Jain, CK, KMB Islam and SK Sarma (eds), Allied, New Delhi, 2011; pp Jain, CK, KMB Islam and SK Sarma (eds), Allied, New Delhi, 2011; pp. 3-12 [ISBN: 978-81-8424-696-4] 1 1. Introduction One of the most unfortunate fallouts of the economic and industrial development across the world is depleting access to water resources for the poorer and marginalized communities. While available water resources are increasingly put to sever stress due to over exploitation, the communities whose livelihood depends on water resources are being threatened by the lack of access to water.

A paradigm shift has evolved over the years from water supply to water demand management where an effort is made to minimize the pressure on limited water resources rather than concentrating on executing large scale water supply schemes (Ellefsen and Kolic 2010). Therefore, it is felt that user communities must have a greater share in determining the demand and supply of water through an inclusive and participatory approach. In this process the grassroots communities will become a part of the water management planning and implementation process.

However, for any such community based initiative will need sustained efforts to empower and strengthen the community roles and responsibilities in the whole process. Bruns (2005) enlists a number of characteristics is such a community based water resources management approach: a. Water users possess detailed local knowledge about how they use water, their needs, and the possible consequences of changes. Community-based approaches cultivate channels through which this information can be considered in making decisions.

Collective action to manage water weaves water users together in webs of relationships. These relationships build social capital of trust and shared understanding that facilitates cooperation. As part of their daily activities, it is often easy for water users to observe whether neighbours are fulfilling their commitments and obligations in using water. They can monitor and detect nearby violations with relatively little time and effort. Communities can selectively apply sanctions unavailable through formal institutions.

The threat of being shamed or of losing one‘s reputation as respected and trustworthy may compel compliance. Water users possess strong incentives and willingness to struggle for their access to water. Community-based approaches may be able resolve many conflicts at a local level, by those most concerned, with little cost or complication. Such subsidiary, customized to local circumstances, reduces the transaction costs of coordinating resource use and implementing agreements. Involving communities in decisions builds legitimacy and support, reducing risks of rejection and resistance.

Participation realizes principles of democracy and empowerment. Water management may become more effective when it utilizes the capabilities of users, not just as individuals, but also as communities linked by ongoing relationship, with shared views and common interests that facilitate cooperation. (Bruns 2005) b. c. d. e. f. g. Community based water resources management (CWRM) has gained worldwide acceptability and recognition over the years, Local knowledge on traditional water resources management practices became the center-stone of this approach (Devine 2006).

As civil societies increasingly taking interest in development programmes, particularly at the community level, several models have been in use across the region (Indian subcontinent) were tested focusing on ? building the capacities of local people, bring about more inclusive decision-making processes, enhance economic security and promote solidarity in the fight against poverty.? (Opare 2007) However, CWRM is not free from its share of criticism from different quarters. Some challenges and limitations have been identified (Agrawal 2003, Knox and Meinzen-Dick 2001, Young 2001, Ribot 2002).

Conflict among heterogeneous groups with a single community with their complex economic, social and political power structures and cultural contexts often pose a serious challenge to the success of any CWRM programme. (Bruns 2005). Against this backdrop, let us discuss here some of the illustrative experiments in CWRM from the countries in the region namely, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This is obviously not an exhaustive and comprehensive comparative analysis on the subject, but only an introductory discussion on the some characteristic features noted in several experiences on CWRM in the said countries.

The region has witnessed a marked mismatch between its 2 development agenda and natural resources (including water) management. Often resources management policies have overlooked resources tenure and access rights of the communities (Tyler and Fajber 2009). Tenure reforms have favored private households rather than common pool resources (Tyler 2006 and Ostrom 1990). The situation is more serious particularly within the region which is witnessing large number of urban migration. It is reported that over the next generation the urban population of Nepal and Bangladesh is expected to triple (Varis 2005). . INDIA It is an alarming trend across the globe that the available freshwater reserves are rapidly depleting and impacts impact will be felt by both developing regions as well as highly developed countries that will face water stress in the future. With India joining the economic development bandwagon in order to become an ? Asian Economic Tigers‘, per capita water consumption is growing rapidly and without a sustainable water management strategy it is likely to lead to severe water shortage. In this context, it is pointed out that by 2025, India, China and select countries in Europe and

Africa will face water scarcity if adequate and sustainable water management initiatives are not implemented (Grail Research Report, 2009). This report also observes: 1. 2. In spite of India having large freshwater reserves, but the increasing population and overexploitation of surface and groundwater over the past few decades has resulted in water scarcity in some regions. Growth of the Indian economy is driving increased water usage across sectors. Wastewater is increasing significantly and in the absence of proper measures for treatment and management, the existing Freshwater reserves are being polluted.

Increased urbanization is driving an increase in per capita water consumption in towns and cities. Urbanization is also driving a change in consumption patterns and increased demand for water-intensive agricultural crops and industrial products. 3. In the recent years a number of illustrative success stories have come to light from India. One such example comes from Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh. More than a thousand check-dams were constructed and nearly the same number of ponds was also dug. These steps led to controlling drought in the village which is also termed as ? drought-proofing‘ (Sahana 2010).

The success elements in such projects are the involvement and participation of the community members. With a facilitator, mostly a local NGO, the village communities draw from upon ? ancient wisdom and made use of the present technology with the future in mind.? (Grail Research Report, 2009). Another famous success story from India is from Villages in the Alwar district of Rajasthan where the work of Tarun Bharat Sangh, and it’s founder Rajendra Singh in the districts of Rajasthan can easily be taken as a pioneering example of community based water resources management programme.

It is a simple two-step programme. First, revive vegetation on barren hill slopes and second, build small water catchments in the valleys and the plains. Though it was looked at by many as an utopian idea in the beginning, over a span of 15 years starting from a small village of Bhikampura in Alwar district, the people-centred model is now spreading all over Rajasthan. Today, the river Arvari, dead for 40 years started to flow again . So too the rivers Ruparel, Jahjajwali and numerous other rivulets.

Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS)‘s methodology is based on total community co-operation which starts with the consultative meetings with the local viallge council (Gram Sabha) to decide on the location and construction of each water harvesting structure and decision is taken by consensus. Every member of the community agrees to contribute money or labour towards the construction of a Johad (Water Pond), a check dam or a weir. A consensus might take some time and in one case the consensus took 5 years to arrive at.

But if the modern project management experts will perhaps laugh at the time taken to reach a consensus on construction that might take only 6 months to build, it is through such ? total consensus‘ a long term, sustainable ? community ownership‘ is ensured. Another success factor was that of educating and creating awareness among the communities about ? the wisdom of ancient methods of water conservation? through water rallies (Pani Yatras) which were taken out through the villages by the TBS and its leader Rajendra Singh.

To ensure personal interest and commitment towards the water resources so created it is insisted that at least part of the finances required for a project comes from the communities themselves. Now, over the years the villagers‘ contribution and interest has risen and hundreds of villages have become self-sufficient in water. (Goodnews India, 2010) 3 In another case from the state of Gujarat, in Mahudi village of Dahod district, a local NGO, NM Sadguru Water and Development Foundation of Gujarat helped the local Bheel population construct percolation tanks and reservoirs.

With constant recharging, rivers that used to dry up after monsoons started flowing throughout the year. Sadguru Foundation focused on ? community managed? Lift Irrigation Systems, Water Harvesting structures/masonry check dams and recharging of community/private wells. It has exploited the immense potential for the development of water resources and irrigation hrough lift irrigation and along with it promoted small-scale water resources development program through the construction of check dams. Subsequently, this has been integrated with other land and water resource development activities based on local demand and potential.

It has been publicly recognized as the most successful and suitable intervention for this region. In the Sadguru approach, the total course of the river is harnessed through a series of masonry check dams at suitable intervals on the same source. This ensures that optimum water is harvested and distributed to all the villages along the source. As a result, 40 local rivers and rivulets have become perennial, against the pre-intervention scenario of drying up from November onwards. Another 20 local rivers and rivulets are in the process of being harvested at optimum levels.

Dag block in Jhalawar district in Rajasthan is the most backward block in the district with minimum of irrigation and all-round backwardness. The Government of India, Ministry of Rural Development, sanctioned a project for the small scale water resources development in Dag block in 2001, entrusting the implementation to Sadguru Foundation. Fifteen small scale water resources projects in the form of community lift irrigation schemes and community water harvesting structures – check dams (7 lift irrigation schemes and 8 check dams) were to be executed under the above programme. Community 2010) A distant success story from the far away coastal village of Pallithode in the state of Kerala in South India, where the challenge was somewhat paradoxical as the problem was of not scarcity but quality. Due to proximity of the sea, there was an increased salination of water in the village. The ADCSWS assessed the viability of providing roof top rainwater in the coastal belt. Within one square meter of area and one millimeter (mm) of rain, the water that can be harvested is one liter. This means that the roofs have tremendous potential – with 10 mm of rainfall, a 50 sq. t. roof can collect 500 liters of water. Since 1997, the organization has constructed 52 rooftop rainwater harvesting structures. The rainwater is being used by the people successfully at a cost of Rs 10,000 per household. The water samples have been tested and found safe for human consumption (ADCSWS 2010). Sabdoo village in Gaya district of Bihar is another illustrative case on India‘s community-based water resources management. Here, the Institute of Research and Action (IRA) has mobilized the people of 40 villages in the state to revive traditional ways of water conservation.

To unite the villagers from different castes and community, in this naxalite dominated region and then imparting the lessons on water conservation was never an easy task for Mahesh and Sarita2 of IRA. They educated the villagers on the relevance of ahar and pyne in the socio-economic well being of the local community. This traditional water harvesting technique comprised of a channel (locally named as pyne) diverts water from rivers to a tank (ahar) from where it is distributed to the fields.

The system went into disuse because of siltation as well as encroachment by the influential lot, adversely affecting the livelihood security of the local population. Persistent efforts started yielding its results after almost three years. 30,000 villagers from forty villages (including Shabdo) came together forgetting the caste differences to revive Hadadwa pyne—45 kilometre long water harvesting system. There was very little external assistance for this initiative—most of the work came in as shramdaan (voluntary labour). The villagers have also devised a management system in the form of ?

Sinchai Samiti (Irrigation Committees) who operate and maintain the ahar and pyne. The impacts are visible—two crops in a year 2 Shabdo village in Fatehpur block in Gaya district of Bihar is still struggling to come out of the shock caused by the death of two of their Jal Yodhas (water warriors). Mahesh Kant and Sarita of the Institute of Research and Action (IRA), a Patna based NGO, who revolutionized the villagers‘ life by reviving an age-old water harvesting system – ahar and pyne, were shot dead on January 24, 2004. They fell victims to the region‘s land mafia, who consistently opposed IRA‘s work in the region. 4 quite unusual few years back) resulting in additional revenue. Most of the tube wells have water today, thanks to the groundwater recharge facilitated by the ahar. IRA has also promoted diversification in income generation activities as well. For the first time in 2003, fishing was done in the ahar spending Rs 8,000. The return was three folds. Interestingly the return is again channelized back into this activity (RWH 2010). 3. NEPAL In neighboring Nepal a number of community based water resources projects were successfully executed and they also throw some light on various methods adopted to gain community ownership and ? uy-in‘ in mitigating the combined challenges of falling groundwater tables, surface and groundwater pollution, and growing and competing demands on limited water resources. Considering these intermingled issues together, WaterAid Nepal (WAN) has adopted a holistic approach to water resource management to ensure the sustainability of water sources and the resource base from which they originate. WAN has therefore placed increased emphasis on Community based Water Resource Management (CWRM) while designing water supply and sanitation programmes based on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) as key strategy.

WaterAid’s adoption of the IWRM approach is in tandem with the changing international dialogue on water resources, in which sub-sector approaches are loosing traction in favor of holistic, integrated approaches. The Global Water Partnership’s definition of IWRM provides the conceptual framework for this initiative: ? IWRM is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.? WAN 2008) In Nepal, it is noted that despite attempts by WAN to manage ground and surface water in a sustainable manner, a failure to manage water resources at a level that integrates all users and mangers of water has resulted in a gradual degradation of the resource base. To addressing this problem WAN identified that, among others, increased collaboration among relevant stakeholders is necessary to ensure progress towards shared objectives along with policy advocacy at the national level. WAN‘s approach to CWRM has four components: technical development, capacity building, institutional linkages and policy advocacy.

The idea of community-based “integrated” water resources management is still largely conceptual, and very few applied examples from South Asia currently exist (WAN 2008). It is generally agreed that such initiatives must be responsive to the local environmental, social and political context, as well as the capacity of the implementing institutions and their partners. Focusing initially on appropriate technologies for water optimization and waste water management at the household and community level, WAN seeks to transition towards a systematic model for community assessment that is driven by the three CWRM operating uidelines. WAN also anticipated that new institutional linkages combined with capacity building activities will allow it to gradually expand its community-based approach to encompass watershed-level and livelihoods-based activities that more appropriately address the aspects of integration that are advocated through CWRM. The Multiple Use Water Systems (MUS) implemented through the Smallholder Irrigation Market Initiative (SIMI) which adopted a combined community mobilization and value chain approach.

Community mobilization helped to orient, educate and prepare the farmer communities to accept SIMI interventions and value chain approach helped to include the private sector in value chain development in order to sustain the efforts through establishment and strengthening of service providers at local level. In this context, the project focused on the development of service providers like local mason, nursery growers, leader farmers, agro vets, output traders, collection centers etc. Smallholders need efficient marketing services to reach their product to the market in a collective manner.

To materialize this strategy, SIMI focused on developing collection centers facilitated by Marketing and Planning committees. A total of 90 collection centers was established and strengthened by facilitating 94 marketing and planning committees (PMCs). Out of the 94 marketing and planning committees, 22 are registered as cooperatives which will serve as local institutions promoting the endeavors. The project generated an incremental income of more than $180 per household per year by basically adopting offseason vegetable production enterprises supported by 74,342 units of micro irrigation technologies.

These technologies comprised of treadle pumps, drip irrigation systems, sprinklers, and electric and diesel pumps. The project also created sufficient number of jobs as service providers in value chain. SIMI had demonstrated that large number of small farmers can be benefitted even without 5 providing any subsidy, provided the farmers have access to affordable and efficient technology supported by variety of services at the village level (SIMI 2007). Another pilot and demonstration activity in Nepal on ? Community-Based Water Resources Management Approaches for Hill and Mountain Ecosystems‘ was funded by Asian Development Bank in 2007-2008.

This project aimed to develop and demonstrate approaches for community-based water resources management for hill and mountain ecosystems, particularly water harvesting and utilization and soil management techniques. In Nepal, poor land management has led to increasing water problems. Soil erosion, soil degradation, and declining soil fertility caused by massive deforestation have increased surface runoff and contributed to the decrease of groundwater resources. ADB‘s Community Managed Irrigated Agriculture Sector Project (CMIASP), which began in 2006, implements farmer-managed irrigation system improvements and micro-irrigation.

Under this project, water user associations (WUA) are being supported to take over ownership of irrigation systems and undertake operations and maintenance trainings. This PDA will introduce water resources management approaches to complement irrigation systems being develop under CMIASP. Implemented by ADB‘s field partners – International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development and ECARDS-Nepal and completed in December 2008, this project identified and tested two farmerfriendly Multiple Use Water System , one in mid-hill and one in a mountain district.

It also established small and degraded watershed management technologies, rainwater collection systems, low-cost plastic ponds for collection of overflow/rain water, and drip irrigation systems. In the process it also enhanced the capacity of the local communities in using IWRM technologies besides introducing market-oriented technologies to increase farmers’ income. 4. BANGLADESH The Tanguar Haor3 Management Plan in Bangladesh an example of a combine approach to sustainable resource management and biodiversity conservation in a freshwater wetland.

The strategy adopted in this case is to secure involvement of the local community including women in water resource management along with investment in habitat restoration activities. The focus of this strategy is on creating incentives for the communities to take part in sustainable management and conservation efforts, and on effective monitoring. The major and prime mover interest in bringing about changes in the haor management had been the interest and commitment towards sustainable resource use for the benefit of the community.

The outcome of the exercise had been the development and adoption of the Management Plan for Tanguar Haor in a participatory process, which very much involved all stakeholders including local community (Islam 1998). The main trade-off for the local community is that they will regain access to natural resources and benefit from a poverty-alleviation programme, in return for which they have to abide by regulations for proper resource use, and curb certain activities, such as expanding the area under rice cultivation and bird hunting/trapping.

With free-access to natural resources restored to the local community, there is the threat that this already degraded system will be further over-exploited. Therefore, the local community, together with an environmental NGO and development NGO, are to develop a set of regulations for sustainable resource use. The main lesson learnt from the Bangladesh experience is that drawing of a water resources management plan which is developed through a truly participatory even at the grassroots level (Islam 1998). 5.

SRI LANKA The Shared Control of Natural Resources (SCOR) project in Sri Lanka is another illustrative example in community based water resources management. In this project a case is being made for environmentally appropriate utilization 33 A haor (Bengali: ) is a wetland ecosystem in the north eastern part of Bangladesh which physically is a bowl or saucer shaped shallow depression, also known as a backswamp. See http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Haor 6 of natural resources base, particularly land and water resources.

There is an increasing body of evidence from Sri Lanka and other countries in the region that farmers, even those with very small holdings make production responses to the economic environment within which they carry out their farming activities. These responses are influenced by the degree of control the users can exercise over their means of production, the availability of information on market conditions and opportunities, and the necessary support services (Wijayaratna, 1998). SCOR project underlines a unique articipatory project design process built on the progress already made in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in participatory irrigation management and social forestry. It applies an organizational approach coupled with appropriate technologies for integrated land and water resources management on a watershed basis. The appropriateness of the approach has been tested and demonstrated in two pilot watersheds in Sri Lanka (namely Huruluwewa in the North Central Province and Nilwala in the Southern Province) chosen for their different social, agricultural and environmental characteristics.

The people in the different components of the watershed having access to different aspects of the natural resources base are engaged in different economic activities, and are of different social and/or cultural backgrounds. The SCOR project has selected about 25 sub-watersheds ranging from 75 to 600 hectors for interventions. In the sub-watershed, a participatory appraisal of the characteristics of resource uses and users as well as mapping of current resource use were done by groups comprising of resource users, NGO, Government agencies and SCOR project team. Subsequently, a participatory resource management “mini project” was formulated.

The “mini-project” aimed at changing the present land and water use pattern to a more profitable yet environmentally sound resource use. Started in October 1993, the project covers over 50,000 people; a large number of farmer organizations and four farmer companies. The project has grown to a network of formal and informal process of new development interactions and initiatives in sub-watersheds in the two pilot watersheds. Nearly 15,000 farm families now practice environmentally sound production methods for increasing sustainable production of natural resources – mainly land and water. . CONCLUSION In the foregoing discussion we have noted some interested initiatives which are based on principles of communitybased water management in order to increased access to water for the grassroots communities. It also considers how people benefitted through their participation in community-based water resources management programmes. Based on a holistic picture that emerges from these experiences, we can clearly conclude that a new trend is gradually emerging that is based on a combination approach to both – demand nd supply processes. We discovered that while various types of community based practices and traditional knowledge enabled community members to access water resources more effectively at the household level, the community-based management approach is yet to gain a more widespread implementation in other parts of the region which are still heavily dependent on ? government-delivered‘ water supply schemes. Therefore, water resources stakeholders as well as ? managers‘ need to pursue the ? ommunity-centered‘ approach more vigorously focusing on: community-centered adaptation to demand-supply scenarios, identifying local vulnerabilities and investigate appropriate solutions. They need to develop water resources projects based on the ground that focus on a community-centered approach to adapting to climate change, are economical, sustainable and are impact-oriented. They should also look in greater detail at the special challenges presented by adaptation of tested projects in the region and draw from what went right and what went wrong those projects.

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