Integrated River Basin Planning – Experience on policy and practice in Pamba River Basin in Kerala – A report by APSF Environment Project

These reports present a replicable model for river basin management of intra-state rivers in India.

Pamba River BasinThe Pamba Pilot Project’s aim was to deliver “Policy Support to Integrated River Basin Management” and to contribute to the continuing EU-India policy dialogue in the water sector.

The Pamba Basin IWRM pilot project has been implemented through targeted training/working sessions, consultations, a broad stakeholder forum as well as a final dialogue on the IWRM Roadmap for the Pamba River Basin. Moreover, the press was invited at several occasions assuring that the process towards IWRM in the Pamba Basin reached an even broader group of stakeh olders. The end result was an IWRM Roadmap for the Pamba River Basin that was presented in December 2010 in a stakeholder dialogue by the Government of Kerala.

The present document aims to provide relevant background information on global experiences in IWRM approaches as well as experience gained in river management planning in Kerala State that may be replicable in other parts of India.

The basic premise of IWRM is that different uses of water are interdependent. Good water governance, the implicit objective of IWRM, ensures wise water use that contributes to economic development, social equity and environmental sustainability. The IWRM Roadmap developed for the Pamba River Basin enables the government to transit from ‘sector restricted’ outlook to ‘sector integrated’ water resources management.

This implies that water sector requirements for domestic supply and sanitation (water for people), for irrigation and fisheries (water for food) and for nature conservation (water for nature) etc. are weighed against each other in their water allocations and potential impacts. Therefore, the Roadmap that has been developed visualizes a conceptual framework and a vision for a long-term process of introduction of a number of water management reforms and practices.

The Roadmap has been developed in collaboration with stakeholders from various sectors of the Government of Kerala, the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management and civil society represented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in the Basin. The ‘Roadmap’ points to a transition to a sustainable water resources management practice which is cross-sectoral, decentralized, and considers the entire catchment of a river basin as a single management unit.

The current project has provided first of all, a framework for exploring the following questions -

  • Where is the state (Kerala) in the IWRM planning process in the Pamba River Basin?
  • What are the constraints in the state to the planning process?
  • Which actions should be taken to prepare the IWRM plan for the Pamba River Basin?
  • What will the actions require?

The Pamba Pilot Project analyzed water resources management practices currently being applied in the state according to the three IWRM pillars: (1) the existence of appropriate policies, strategies and legislation for sustainable water resources development and management; (2) putting in place the institutional framework through which to implement the policies, strategies and legislation; and (3) setting up the management instruments required by these institutions to do their job.

The management problems in the Pamba river basin were identified as ranging from legislations and policies not being enacted, lack of enforcement of existing legal framework, adjustment of existing legal water framework for Kerala state, setting-up a sustainable monitoring and evaluation system for water resources management and establishment of an information system on water resources.

This Roadmap constitutes a blueprint for action that moves Kerala closer to its IWRM vision, starting with immediate suggested actions to develop an IWRM plan and thus towards adoption of IWRM principles. The IWRM Roadmap aims at identifying interventions, milestones and indicators for development of an action plan based on IWRM principles. The main actions identified in the Roadmap are the immediate need for operationalization of the Pamba River Basin Authority followed by adequate and thorough capacity building at state and local level in IWRM practices and the development of a full IWRM Action Plan for the Pamba River.

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