Water Governance Is a Core Component of Development

  • 2018/03/03     Dresden, Germany

    Reporting by Eunjoo Lee, Intern, Office of the Director

    Linked to the broader discourse on sustainable water resources management, Nexus Seminar No. 27 highlighted the importance of water governance adaptation in national development strategies.

    On 22 January Prof. Muna Mirghani, a visiting professor at TU Berlin delivered a lecture on “Responsive Water Governance in Context of Semi-Arid Environments and Developing Countries”. At the seminar held at TU Dresden, Prof. Mirghani addressed issues associated with the lack of clear national water policies and the absence of integrated water resources management plans in developing countries.

    Based on a multidisciplinary approach combining social and natural sciences, her presentation addressed two core aspects, namely: the interlinkages between water governance gaps and sustainable development objectives, as well as adapting water governance to a river basin context in order to achieve desired development outcomes.

    Prof. Mirghani started her presentation with introducing the key elements of water governance: framework, institutions, and management instruments. Frameworks are policies and legislations; some of these frameworks have been accepted and adopted by the community of nations, but they have not yet entered into force, she emphasised. She considered that it is not easy for most countries to come to an agreement due to differences in politics, knowledge base, and access to funds. The second and central part of governance is institutions. To bring the principles into functioning, rules and organisational structures are needed.

    The focus of her lecture was however, devoted to the last element of water governance: management instruments, which directly affect the status of water resources. The instruments are to be designed to solve problems and to create an output; thus, adaptation to each situation on the basin level would be critical.

    In the second part of her presentation, Prof. Mirghani introduced a case study on the inland water system in East Sudan. In the rural region of Kassala State, the Gash river flows only for three to four months and for the rest of the year, the population depends on groundwater. This is not only a problem of agricultural water shortage, but it is also a problem of access to drinking water for residents.

    To solve water-related problems, it is essential to understand the underlying causes; in Kassala State, the major cause lies in governance. There are two regulatory bodies in East Sudan; ironically, however, due to the lack of communication between the two governing institutions, neither fully focuses on water systems management. Separate and inappropriate management of water is causing poor estimations of water availability, lack of knowledge on the sector, gaps in essential user information, and inappropriate management financing.

    Two elements of governance are clearly lacking in the Gash basin: institutional capacity and management/adaptation instruments. For the government to achieve its objectives of providing access to water for its citizens, an efficient groundwater abstraction and drilling practice, equitable groundwater distribution for rural livelihoods, and an effective management regime based on a basin scale coordinated plan are needed.

    Concluding her presentation, Prof. Mirghani reiterated that water governance is a core component of national development strategies and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries.