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Public participation

IWRM draws its inspiration from the Dublin principles, one of which is that: Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners, and policy makers at all levels.

Water is a subject in which everyone is a stakeholder. Real participation only takes place when stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process and in implementing the decisions or, at least, monitoring the implementing decisions.

A participatory approach is the only means for achieving a longlasting consensus and common agreement. Participation means an acceptance of responsibilities, recognizing the effect of sectoral actions on other water users and aquatic ecosystems, as well as accepting the need for charge to improve the efficiency of water use and allow the sustainable development of this resource.

Realization of this principle is possible only through forming representative non-governmental organizations, of local and production organizations created on a democratic base, that are expressing shared, territorial and other public interests. It should be noted that participation not always results in consensus and, therefore, arbitration processes or other conflict resolution mechanisms will also need to be put in place.

Water governance and management traditionally were performed by the state in the face of authorized water organizations jointly with local authorities and local self-government bodies. In this context, the public generally acts as direct or indirect water users. Conflicts of interests often arise between the state providing water delivery services and the water user-communities - generally due to non-compliance with the social equity principle.

The state must observe public interests; however, in search for politico-economic objectives, the former often underestimates the role of social dialogue. Therefore, the public must be enabled to participate in water governance.

Currently it seems evident that the lack of public participation, i.e. stakeholder participation in water and agricultural governance is one of main obstacles for more efficient agriculture and water management in the region.

Under conditions of natural monopoly of irrigation service provider, purely market leverage (controlling through irrigation service fees) from the side of water users on water management organization (irrigation service provider) is often ineffective and illogical since by non-paying for irrigation services, water user eventually makes a rod for himself. The only way is to implement the public participation principle, where the water user and other stakeholders control the service provider through participation in decision making.

The principle of public participation can be realized through community organizations and bodies of governance that are established (in addition to water management bodies) in line with the integration principle*:

  • Water Users Unions integrating WUAs and other water users.
  • Water governance bodies (Water Committees, Water Councils,) integrating key stakeholders and gathering service users and service providers (water-management organizations) to express their opinion and make decisions on water governance (consideration and approval of water distribution plans, water limits, assessment of implementation of the plan, etc.).

* Integration in the meaning of institutional consolidation does not automatically lead to cooperation or to more efficient water management. This is a prolonged and complex process that has no any alternative.

Author: Mirzaev N.N., SIC ICWC