Water management conflicts between communities and external actors - Need ways to minimise or resolve conflicts

Original Query: Prema Gera, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), New Delhi
Posted: 22 November 2005

UNDP has been supporting NGOs working in the area of community-based water resources management for some years now. The local communities comprising self-help groups, community-based organisations, water-users groups and federations have been experiencing a range of conflicts over water use both within communities as well as with external stakeholders in the area.

Institutional arrangements designed at community level offer an effective mechanism to address conflicts occurring among water managers and users, and at times intervention by external agencies is sought for facilitation and arbitration.

However, conflicts with a range of external actors are posing a serious concern for the partner NGOs and communities. The three most common areas of such conflicts are: (a) conflicts between rural and urban areas where water from rural areas is taken to meet the increasing demand in the urban towns and cities thereby leaving the rural areas with even less water for drinking water and livelihoods. (b) competing intersectoral water claims such as instances where an industry draws heavily on groundwater resulting in falling levels for the neighbouring communities (c) conflicts triggered by policy e.g., absence of clear ownership rights in water, subsidy in electricity resulting in over use of ground water thereby undermining community efforts in conservation and sustainable use of water.

In these three areas, we would be grateful to learn from network members about specific experiences with

  • ways to prevent or minimize such conflicts that can be incorporated into the design of a project
  • methodologies for resolving conflicts when communities are faced with such situations.

Please see attachment below for the responses.