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Le Huu Ti
Economic Affairs Officer
Water and Mineral Resources Section

Thierry G Facon
Water Management Officer
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific


1. Background

The World Water Vision process, which was developed before the Second World Water Forum, held in the Netherlands in March 2000, has generated a great deal of enthusiasm towards better management of water resources in the region and elsewhere. In order to build on the momentum generated by this global initiative and turn it into a regional cooperation programme for a more effective contribution of the region to the World Water Vision efforts, a programme of cooperation between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was initiated in 1999 with a view to promote the development of national water visions. In the initial phase of the programme, ESCAP and FAO, in collaboration with other international organizations, were to jointly review important achievements in the methodology of developing water visions, and FAO would make financial resources available for four case studies to be carried out in as many countries of the region.

Current joint initiative versus the World Water Vision process: The development of a World Water Vision is perceived as a learning process. The joint initiative was therefore conceived as an anchoring component of the process in the region. It was expected that the joint project would contribute to laying down a cornerstone for the continuing national water vision building process and to establishing a firm foundation for a regional water vision development programme. In this connection, for each of the four countries selected, the case study carried out by a contracted national expert in cooperation with the respective supporting water resources institutions would include a review of past national efforts in the formulation of a national water vision and would lead to an updated version of national water visions including plans of priority action. The terms of reference prepared for the services of the national experts required in the initial phase of the project also aimed at building up a regional network of experts for long-term cooperation in water resources management.

2. Approaches already adopted for the vision process

The outcome of the many efforts made during the past two and a half years to define a world water vision is complex, as pointed out by the response from the Stockholm water symposium: “There was a unanimous agreement that the Commission report needed to be focused on a few issues with recommendations for a strategy to solve them” (Debbie Gray, IUCN-Canada, 28 Sep 1999). However, in terms of approach, there was a strong similarity in methodology, in other words a consensus on the overall planning process, which led to “Vision” and then to “Action”.

Apparently, it has been agreed all along that the development of a world water vision is a process, and that the formulation of a vision is as important as follow-up actions. The view of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council as expressed in its Vision 21 showed the conceptual approach adopted so far: Knowledge synthesis > vision > changes > goals > strategy > plans > action.

Similarly, the group in charge of the preparation of “Vision on water for food and rural development” adopted a five-step process: Vision > principles > driving forces > our choices > strategy for action.

These conceptual approaches to vision building are fundamentally similar and were apparently accepted by most people taking part in the Stockholm water symposium, in particular the need for practicable strategies and realistic action plans.

3. Purpose of this paper

This paper is prepared at the end of the initial phase, which marks also the beginning of a stronger and closer regional cooperation process to synchronize regional efforts for better-integrated water resources management and for more-effective contributions to economic and social development in the region. In that regional context, the paper aims to describe the initial phase of the process, findings and recommendations deriving from these efforts, and possible strategies for concerted regional collaboration.


1. Implementation arrangements

a. Selection of countries for pilot case studies

In order to capitalize on the achievements of the Global Water Partnership for the World Water Vision process and taking into account the limited resources available within the pilot projects, it was decided to select the following countries as case studies for the pilot project: Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. It should be pointed out that in the context of the formulation of a regional water vision for Southeast Asia, a number of studies were carried out in these four countries in 1999 and the early part of 2000. These studies included the formulation of a national water vision through the mapping of gaps and needs in integrated water resources management and the formulation of a framework for action in the water sector. The findings and experience derived from these studies were used to develop an approach for the implementation of the pilot project as elaborated in Section II.2.

b. Implementation arrangements

As the pilot projects emphasized the process of turning national water visions into action, it was decided to select the implementation modalities that would ensure continuity of the efforts and sustainability of the momentum generated by the projects. Such modalities would need to build on the central role of the national agency responsible for the formulation of national water resources policies or plans in the selected country. In the implementation of the project, efforts were made to identify experts from the related national agencies as the project consultants. In the process, the project consultants received the help of other key government agencies as well as NGOs and the private sector in the respective countries, as listed below.

The project required substantive contributions from ESCAP and FAO, not only in coordinating contributions and reviewing the national studies, but also in preparing technical papers on international experiences and approaches adopted in the formulation of a national water vision for integrated management and for agriculture and rural development. This synthesis paper is also part of the substantive contribution made by the technical staff of ESCAP and FAO to the pilot projects with a view to prepare for follow-up action in the common regional endeavour.

2. Approach adopted in the pilot project

The vision exercise’s ultimate purpose is to generate awareness throughout the world of the water crisis that we face and the possible solution for addressing it before it is too late. This will lead to the development of a new policy, a legislative and institutional framework operational at all levels, from the individual to the international, to manage the world’s freshwater resources effectively, efficiently and equitably in the interests of humankind and Planet Earth. (A vision of water in the twenty-first century)
For the same purpose as the one mentioned above, it can be noted that strenuous national efforts towards sustainable management of water resources have continued over the past few decades, particularly since the adoption of the Mar del Plata Action Plan by the United Nations in 1977. The water vision process, however, introduced a new methodology aiming at developing a more strategic approach to the management of world water resources. Within this process and in line with the purpose of the joint technical cooperation between FAO and ESCAP, national experts were recruited to be responsible for the case studies and to carry out the following tasks:

a. Preparation of country case studies

In order to facilitate comparison of efforts and compilation of experiences in the formulation of national water visions for action, general guidelines for the preparation of the country case studies were adopted, with the following components:

(1) Review the national experiences related to the formulation of a national water vision

The vision process must be viewed from the perspective of a pragmatic programme or framework of action to respond to the different development needs (short-term and thus urgent, as well as long-term needs) and to ensure the sustainable management of the water resources of a country. This section was therefore devoted to a discussion of the national processes and related experiences.

(2) Identify the key components of the process of formulation of a national water vision

The world water vision process showed that the formulation of a water vision would require consultations at different levels (first and second rounds) and different components (subsector visions, regional visions and thematic and regional vision syntheses). In such an integrated process, sectoral visions may be developed, such as for water supply and sanitation, food security, environment and ecosystems, and water in rivers. As the importance of the subsectors may be different from one country to another, the selection of components or subsectors was decided during the implementation of the projects. In order to ensure the active participation of all stakeholders, the relative importance of the components was conceived from the perspective of the stakeholders participating in each project.

(3) Review the framework for the development and management of a national water vision

In this component, implementation and management of a national water vision was to be examined not only in the context of the development of a shared vision, but also based on a pragmatic framework for integrated water resources management. The fact that water resources management is increasingly practiced worldwide at the river basin level to meet both socio-economic needs and the needs of nature was also taken into account. A comprehensive discussion would therefore include the relative importance of the framework of water resources management at river basin level in the context of the water vision formulation process.

b. Organization of national roundtable discussion of the case studies

After they were submitted to ESCAP as planned, the first draft reports on the case studies were reviewed by the ESCAP and FAO officials concerned, who forwarded their comments to the national experts involved. After revisions were made, a two-day roundtable of national experts was organized in each pilot country by the respective supporting national institutions and experts according to the following schedule:

In all these roundtable workshops, FAO and ESCAP officers presented their findings on the world water vision process and took part in detailed discussions.

c. Preparation and submission of the final country reports

After the completion of the roundtable workshops, the case study reports were revised to incorporate the findings and recommendations of the roundtable discussions and were submitted for review and comments to the ESCAP and FAO officials concerned. The final reports are available upon request. In the subsequent chapters, the main findings and recommendations of these reports are summarized and examined in the context of a regional cooperation programme taking into account the latest developments. The relevant project reports are listed in the reference section of this synthesis.


As this synthesis report is prepared to provide complementary aspects to the four country studies, it endeavours to present a comparative picture of the countries, important findings in the implementation of the initial phase, experiences derived from the national processes of formulation and implementation of national water visions, and various recommendations.

1. A comparative analysis of achievements in the selected countries before the studies

The four pilot countries covered in the initial phase of regional cooperation between ESCAP and FAO over the study of water resources management provide a good perspective on the socio-economic development of developing countries in the region as well as on water resources management. As can be seen from Table 1, these countries recorded relatively high economic growth rates over the past two decades (with GNP growth of between 3 and 8 percent per year) and experienced an important transformation in their economic structure, moving away from a mainly agriculture-based economy towards an increasingly industry-based (Malaysia and Thailand) or service-based (the Philippines) economy, with the exception of Viet Nam, which is still predominantly agricultural. As agriculture accounts for most of the use of water resources, the economic transformation provides an interesting perspective on the development of and achievements in water resources. This is true not only for the role of water resources management in economic transformation, but also for the implications of the recent financial crisis, which started in 1997. From Table 1, it can be seen that the financial crisis has increased the relative importance of the agricultural sector in the Philippines and in Viet Nam, and severely affected economic conditions in Thailand and Malaysia (with a reduction in GDP of 10.2 and 7.4 percent in 1998 respectively - World Bank, 2000).

In this context, the study of achievements in water resources management over the past decades in the four countries shed welcome light on the background of the processes leading to integrated water resources management and to the formulation of national water visions. In these national processes, the role of water resources development and management could be examined from the point of view of economic efficiency, as a stabilizing factor of socio-economic development in the countries concerned. The implementation of the projects also led to complex perceptions of economic efficiency in water usage, such as the adoption of the concept of “virtual water” in the formulation of water policies and strategies. With respect to the concept of a stabilizing factor, the use of water resources for agricultural development is now seen in the much wider and more sophisticated context of globalization and the market economy. During implementation, attempts were made by the respective agencies to identify measures and indicators in order to assess the economic efficiency of water usage and to provide management options that take into account the role of the market in enhancing the stability factor provided by the agricultural sector.

On the other hand, it should be noted that there are important differences in the legal and institutional frameworks for integrated water resources management among the countries. However, in all countries, efforts are being made to improve the frameworks as well as stakeholder participation.

Table 1. Key economic indicators of the pilot countries


1989 - 1998



Malaysia GNP (US$ billion)





Agriculture (% of GNP) 24.4 18.1 13.3 10.7




















Philippines GNP (US$ billion)





Agriculture (% of GNP)




















Thailand GNP (US$ billion)





Agriculture (% of GNP)




















Viet Nam GNP (US$ billion)





Agriculture (% of GNP)




















Source: World Bank Website, World Bank, 2000
2. Findings related to the formulation and implementation of national water visions

On the basis of the adopted approach for the implementation of the project mentioned in Section II.2, the formulation and implementation of a national water vision involve not only various aspects of the national water vision, but also the priority components (sectors or areas) of integrated water resources management of the countries.

a. National water vision statements

The national water visions thus defined were developed through a number of national workshops, starting from the assessment of the need to apply integrated water resources management (as initiated by the Global Water Partnership). The above statements were formulated in connection with the development of a framework for action on integrated water resources management. Although the frameworks for action developed in the pilot countries are more or less similar, details of the linkage between the national water visions and the respective frameworks for action differ, depending on the number of national consultations conducted before the implementation of the project. Further details can be found in the country study reports.

b. Implementation of the national water visions

From the results of the national consultations conducted in the project, it is important to note the recognition and appreciation of the need for consistent and fruitful implementation of the national water visions of the four pilot countries by all the key agencies involved. These key agencies also expressed their firm commitment to implementing the respective national water visions. All other concerned agencies also expressed their keen interest in being involved. The implementation of the national water visions was examined through the various stages of the strategic planning process during the national roundtable workshops. In such a process, analysis was made to take into account the need for a sustainable programme of action and in particular for the effective integration of these efforts and activities into the national development process. The planning analysis also included the implications of the participatory approach (shared vision), the need for brief institutional analyses (key agencies and their respective missions), key approaches to planning and management (integrated river-basin approach) and good governance principles (performance indicators and monitoring). It should be pointed out that from the strategic planning analysis mentioned above, the opportunities identified by the participants in the various consultative workshops differed, depending on the actual conditions and stage of development of each country. Furthermore, since this was only the beginning of a regional process of consolidation in the development and implementation of national water visions, no attempt was made to have all perceptions come together under a single format.

For the smooth and consistent implementation of a national water vision, the leading agencies were identified as follows:

Besides the identification of the lead agency or agencies, the national workshops identified other key features and elements for the implementation of the vision in their respective countries. These can be summarized as follows:

· Malaysia

The following key objectives of the vision were identified:

Water for people: all have access to safe, adequate and affordable water supply, hygiene and sanitation.

Water for food and rural development: provision of sufficient water that will ensure national food security and promote rural development.

Water for economic development: provision of sufficient water to spur and sustain economic growth within the context of a knowledge-based economy and e-commerce.

Water for the environment: protection of the water environment to preserve water resources (both surface and groundwater) and natural flow regimes, biodiversity and the cultural heritage, and to mitigate water-related hazards.

A set of initiatives was deemed necessary to achieve the above key objectives of the vision: (a) managing water resources efficiently and effectively (addressing both quantitative and qualitative aspects); (b) moving towards integrated river basin management; (c) translating awareness to political will and capacity; and (d) moving towards adequate, safe and affordable water services that would befit developed-nation status by 2020.

The way forward to realize the national water vision was identified as the establishment of associated programmes in the Eighth Malaysia Plan (2001-2005) and the Third Outline Perspective Plan (2001-2010), especially for the following areas: (i) adoption of the national water vision, (ii) formulation and adoption of a national water policy, (iii) establishment of river basin organizations, (iv) water pollution control and river rehabilitation, (v) groundwater exploration and management, (vi) water-demand management, and (vi) research and development. The national water vision will be adopted to ensure continuous supply of water in terms of quantity and quality to meet all needs, including the protection of the environment. This vision shall be one of the main agendas of the sustainable national development plan. The strategy and plan of action to realize the vision are to be formulated, adopted and disseminated to all stakeholders, so that everybody is committed to conserving water resources and their ecosystems. Water is everybody’s business. The seven strategic steps identified and recommended by the national consultation workshop for implementation are as follows:

(1) Endorsement and acceptance of the national water vision by all stakeholders.

(2) Establishment of river-basin organizations.

(3) Establishment of a mechanism for coordination and monitoring.

(4) Sensitizing and facilitating the involvement of NGOs in implementing the framework for action.

(5) Enhancement of public awareness of the national water vision.

(6) Establishment of a mechanism for participatory management of stakeholders in all subsectors.

(7) Maintaining and regularizing dialogue among the key partners of the national water vision.

· Philippines

In order to achieve the national water vision, a framework of action would include the following:

A four-year plan of action was drawn up to implement the national water vision. For a start, a press conference will be held by NWRB to drum up interest in the Philippine water vision, and the legislators behind the Clean Water Act will be invited to participate. Bills on water pending in Congress will be reviewed with a view to integrate them into a single bill. Simultaneous with the press conference, ground working with politicians and executives will be undertaken. The Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation will spearhead the establishment of the Philippine Water 21 Partnership, which was formed among the workshop participants as a first step to jumpstart the vision into action. The partnership is one of the Philippine responses to the Second World Water Forum and it is expected to report to the Third World Water Forum to be held in Japan in 2003. The national framework for action agreed upon during the workshop will serve as the reference for the activities the partnership will want to undertake. The partnership is expected to promote the national framework for action by convincing others to accept it and come up with their own sets of activities in order to vitalize it. It is now up to the Water 21 Partnership to put direction and synergy into the different activities that have to be done so that the vision is realized by the year 2025.

· Thailand

Implementation should consist of five components, as listed below.

For the successful implementation of the national water vision, key elements of the national water resources policy were identified and subsequently reviewed and submitted to the government. The National Water Resources Committee approved the water resources policy in its 20 July 2000 meeting and the government approved the national water vision on 25 July 2000. The policy has the following components:

1. Accelerate the promulgation of the draft water act, which will be the framework for national water management, by reviewing the draft and implementing all steps necessary to make the act effective, including a review of existing laws and regulations.

2. Create water management organizations at both national and river basin levels with supportive laws. The national organization is responsible for formulating national policies and monitoring and coordinating activities to fulfil the set policies. The river basin organizations are responsible for preparing water management plans through a participatory approach.

3. Emphasize suitable and equitable water allocation for all sectors using water, and fulfil basic water requirements for agricultural and domestic uses. At the same time, define efficient and sustainable priorities in water usage for each river basin under clear water allocation criteria, incorporating beneficiaries’ cost sharing based on ability to pay and level of services.

4. Formulate clear directions for raw water provision and development compatible with demand and with the potential of the river basins, and ensure suitable quality while conserving natural resources and maintaining the environment.

5. Provide and develop raw water sources for farmers extensively and equitably in response to water demand for sustainable agricultural and domestic uses, similar to the provision of other basic infrastructure services by the State.

6. Include water-related topics in the curriculum at all levels of formal education to create awareness of water value and understanding of the importance of efficient water usage and of the necessity to maintain natural and man-made water resources.

7. Provide sufficient and sustainable financial support for action programmes in line with the national policy, including water-related research, public relations, information collection and technology transfer to the public.

8. Promote and support participation, including clear identification of procedures, clear guidelines on the rights and responsibilities of the public and of non-government and government organizations in efficient water management. Water management includes water usage, water source conservation, and monitoring and preservation of water quality.

9. Accelerate preparation of plans for flood and drought protection, including warning, damage control and rehabilitation, efficiently and equitably with proper use of land and other natural resources.

· Viet Nam

The framework for action needed to achieve the national water vision was found to include the following elements:

1. Integrated water resources management to ensure provision of sufficient water for domestic, economic and social uses, a sustainable environment and flood control by (a) change in perception of water and water management, (b) improvement of strategy, policies and mechanisms for water management, (c) management of water demand and water usage, (d) equitable and reasonable allocation of water, and (d) research in water saving and water efficiency technology.

2. Adoption of a basin approach to integrated water resources management through (a) partnerships among stakeholders for integrated water resources management, (b) balance between water usage and ecosystem preservation through river basin planning, (c) application of decision support systems for integrated water resources management and (d) enhancement of international cooperation on shared water courses.

3. Enhancement of awareness and political will, institutional strengthening and capacity building for integrated water resources management through (a) renovation of investment policy and mechanisms in the development and management of water infrastructure, (b) separation of water governance and water services, (c) establishment of a water management system at central, basin and local levels, (d) establishment of a synchronized and comprehensive legal framework and (e) capacity building.

4. Achievement of effective water services by (a) institutional strengthening of water services in terms of accountability and self-sufficiency, (b) recognition of water as an economic commodity, (c) adoption of a strategy for water services development with the participation of several sectors and the community of water users and (d) construction, rehabilitation and efficient management of the water infrastructure.

The strategy to be adopted for the implementation of the national vision would require (i) to make all communities and stakeholders aware of the vision, (ii) to monitor and update its process of implementation, (iii) to establish all river basin organizations and implement water resources management at the basin level, (iv) to improve the legal and institutional framework, particularly for water resources management, and (v) to rehabilitate all the water sources for development.

c. Key components and other highlights of the national consultation process

Apart from focusing on the implementation of the national water visions as discussed above, most of the countries included other key components for national consultation, depending on the number of national experts participating in the national workshops. The list of these components is given below.

It may be noted that the highest number of participants in a national workshop was in the Philippines, thanks to the co-sponsorship of the Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation: International Training Network Foundation and the Global Water Partnership-Southeast Asia Technical Advisory Committee. The most important findings and recommendations of the consultations on these components are given in the respective country reports; the key features and most interesting facts are presented here for reference.

· Malaysia

The key sectoral features of the national water vision in the case of Malaysia are as follows:

With respect to the Malaysian experience on integrated water resources management (IWRM), performance indicators for water sector policies are under development, especially on key issues such as efficiency (productivity of water) or food self-sufficiency (production versus food demand). Application of the IWRM concept to flood management in Malaysia also provides useful experience for the development of a national strategy on the matter. The Department of Irrigation and Drainage is developing a strategy for flood management to address flooding problems while promoting the economic value of healthy rivers. The strategy focuses on river channels, floodplains, and river basins and includes: (a) river management, (b) legislation and policy concern, (3) flood risk mapping, and flood warning and preparedness planning, (4) public participation, (5) developing options and alternatives, and (6) monitoring, evaluation and revision. In order to promote more rigorously the application of IWRM, partnership with the private sector and NGOs is underway and the Malaysian Water Partnership has been established for this purpose.

· Philippines

The points which may be considered as highlights in the national consultation process include: a national water conference to focus on water supply and sanitation, recent developments in river basin organization reform, and partnership with NGOs.

(a) The 1999 National Water Conference

A national conference was held in March 1999 with the aim of creating a consensus and shared vision on water supply and sanitation for the 21st century. Heads of the different government agencies involved in water supply and sanitation as well as people from NGOs, private sector concerns, people’s organizations, women’s groups and others participated in the conference. The conference stressed the importance of creating a shared vision as foundation for strategy and action. It underscored the need to visualize the desired state of water supply and sanitation in the future and to steer the different stakeholders towards such a vision. It also emphasized the need for a participatory approach and had the following objectives: (a) elicit a shared vision; (b) identify changes necessary to attain it; and (c) map out steps to be taken within the next five years to effect the desired changes.

The key phrases or images that would describe the state of water supply, sewerage and sanitation by 2025 were as follows:

These key phrases were crafted into a vision statement for each of the nine groups, leading to the following integrated vision statement: “A world-class, affordable and sustainable water supply, sanitation and sewerage system accessible to every Filipino. Entry points for change were also identified in the workshop to (1) narrow the gap between desired and actual output and (2) enhance the attainment of the group’s vision statement. These entry points concerned policy issues, popular participation, creation of enabling mechanisms, and issues related to infrastructure and technology. Facilitating factors that would contribute strongly to the realization of the vision were also identified. Further details can be obtained from the Philippine country report.

(b) Recent developments in river basin organization reform

In years past, there were attempts at regional and basin planning for which corresponding institutions were created. In no time, however, these regional and basin agencies were dissolved and sectoral agencies were assigned to continue the programmes and projects within the purview of basin authorities. Currently, there are only two basin organizations, the Laguna Lake Development Authority and the Agno River Basin Development Commission. The latter was created only in 1997. According to a recent study, the government is again bent on pursuing the river basin management approach and would therefore need advice on approaches and capacity building to strengthen the existing river basin organizations. Recent developments on these two entities point out interesting features in national efforts to integrate the river basin management approach into the national development process, particularly into its complex legal and institutional framework. As may be surmised from the features presented below, future achievements on this subject depend mainly on whether the government will decentralize authority or fully commit itself to river basin management for which strong leadership and community participation are required.

The Laguna Lake Development Authority

LLDA was created to promote the sustainable development and maintain the ecological integrity of the Laguna Lake basin, which is the largest inland body of water in the Philippines and second largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The lake is used for fishery, navigation and transport, as a reservoir for floodwater and a waste sink, and for power generation and irrigation. By far the most important use of the potential of the lake is as a major source of fresh water for domestic and industrial purposes for Metro Manila and surrounding areas in years to come.

LLDA has regulatory powers such as exclusive authority to grant permits for the use of lake waters and clearance for all development activities within the region. Aware of the importance of the basin as a natural resource and of the rapid industrialization and urbanization around it, which put the natural environment under tremendous environmental stress, LLDA has:

1. formulated the Laguna de Bay Master Plan, which provides the vision for the development of the region and describes the strategy and programmes of action to realize that vision;

2. declared a multi-use policy; for the dominant use of the lake, this has meant a refocusing of priorities from the promotion of fisheries to environmental protection, watershed management and pollution control;

3. been implementing the Environment User Fee System, which is a market-based instrument designed to motivate industries to comply with all environmental standards by setting stiff disincentives for non-complying industries and attractive incentives for complying industries.

4. stepped up its efforts to stop the degradation of the 21 river systems which drain into the Laguna Lake. Using the basin or watershed approach to resource management, the revitalized river rehabilitation programme encourages multi-sectoral involvement in the effort to save the rivers and ultimately the lake from further environmental degradation.

5. commissioned various institutions to undertake important studies and projects in order to further upgrade its own capability to manage the lake and its watershed in a sustainable manner.

The Agno River Basin Development Commission

ARBDC is mandated to oversee and coordinate all development along the Agno River Basin and to ensure a holistic approach in water resources planning and management of the basin. Its core functions are to (1) develop a comprehensive master plan for the river basin; (2) coordinate the integration of the master plan and the local and regional plans and investment programmes; (3) cause the implementation of development programmes and projects with an overall impact upon the basin; (4) initiate, receive and recommend project proposals for the development of the basin; (5) formulate, review and propose improvements on existing policies governing that development; (6) commission, coordinate and monitor all planning studies and research and other development undertakings related to the basin; (7) coordinate soil erosion prevention, river siltation mitigation, flood control and other projects among the concerned government agencies; and (8) establish a functional basin-wide information and database system including computer-generated planning tools such as GIS.

Unlike LLDA, which is an authority, ARBDC relies mainly on the commitment and participation of all related agencies. Under these circumstances, the current strong ARBDC leadership, headed by an undersecretary of the Presidential Office, has initiated a clear programme of strategic planning and management for the river basin. Important achievements of ARBDC include the establishment of a strategic plan and ongoing efforts to implement it.

(c) Partnership with NGOs

The national workshop recommended to mobilize and institutionalize broad partnerships between government and non-government organizations of all kinds to put vision to action and monitor performance in order to develop a strong, gender-sensitive water culture at all levels. The formation during the workshop of the Philippine Water 21 Partnership was conceived as the first step to jumpstart the vision into action. The partnership is expected to promote the national framework for action by generating ideas and convincing others to come up with their own sets of activities in order to flesh out the framework. In this spirit, NWRB and the Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation: International Training Network Foundation have taken up the challenge to lead the partnership. Since the workshop was held, NWRB has reportedly initiated various activities to further examine the sectoral action plans. These plans are deemed complicated because they involve specific targets and performance indicators, including milestones for monitoring the performance of the respective sectors in relation to targets. With a common level of understanding on where to go, NWRB expected to effectively play the leadership role, as recommended by the workshop, so that the national water vision for 2025 would be achieved with the support of government, NGOs, academia, the private sector, international partners and other bodies.

· Thailand

As mentioned above in the section related to national water policies in Thailand, the efforts going on in the field, including a programme to restructure agriculture, provide interesting features on integrated water resources management. Three important features are highlighted below: (a) a brief historical account of the development of river basin management in Thailand, (b) the important components of the ongoing water resources strengthening programme, and (c) the direction of water resources management in the Ninth Five-year National Economic and Social Development Plan.

(a) A brief historical account of the development of river basin management

In the Sixth National Plan (1987-1991), for the first time policy guidelines were adopted for all concerned agencies to prepare the water resources development plan at the basin level. In addition, other guidelines were issued to encourage the spread of small-scale water resources development to rural areas, to encourage people to organize, to plan for a greater role in management, to maintain water development projects, and to develop an information system among the relevant agencies. However, the water resources development guidelines were not implemented progressively as most agencies still used the project approach and there was little coordination among them.

Therefore, the Seventh National Plan (1992-1996) had strong development guidelines on basin-based water resources management for all the 25 river basins of Thailand. A total of Baht122 000 million (about US$5 000 million) was invested in various projects on water resources developments over the five-year period of the plan. Nevertheless, by 1996 water resources management had not improved significantly. Water continued to be wasted by all economic sectors, especially agriculture, as water continued to be a free commodity for farmers and water used in manufacturing and services was charged at unreasonably low rates. Population growth not only led to higher demand for water but also to more intensive use of land leading to increasingly serious problems of watershed encroachment and water degradation, especially in and around Bangkok and a few provincial capitals.

If small-scale projects are initiated and prepared at the local level for approval at district and provincial levels, medium-sized and large-scale projects all follow the top-down approach. They originate at the central planning office and are based mainly on hydrological and technical considerations. Precious little information on the real needs of local users is gathered at the initiation and planning stages. Moreover, there is little coordination among the agencies involved, which sometimes results in cases of overlapping of project areas. As the involvement of the local population is limited, there is often misunderstanding between line agencies and local groups. All of this occurs because there is no comprehensive plan for the management of the nation’s river basins.

In 1993, the first attempt was made to define a systematic water resources management plan, with guidelines for the study of the potential of the country’s 25 river basins. The study, which was completed in 1994, covered data collection and preliminary analysis of potential water resources development in each river basin to meet water demand as projected for the period 1994 to 2006. In order to provide policymakers with a comprehensive river management strategy, the Chao Phraya river basin, which consists of eight sub-basins, was selected as a priority area: the basin spreads over some 30 percent of the total land area, is home to 27 million people and accounts for most of the country’s agricultural production, industrialization and urbanization. The study on the Chao Phraya river basin resulted in six strategic guidelines, which are being followed as part of the eighth, current Five-year Plan:

1) Institutional arrangement: to establish a Chao Phraya River Basin Organization to manage all aspects of water usage using the principle of basin management through coordination of the activities of the government agencies active in the water sector.

2) Supply management: to develop the new surface resources, attend to catchment conservation and study and monitor groundwater.

3) Demand management: to emphasize the strengthening of the existing system of command and control, the application of a water charge and improvement of the information system in the short term and of water rights in the longer term.

4) Water-quality management: to integrate the management of water quality, introduce licensing of discharges and enforce water-quality standards.

5) Flood management: to establish within the Chao Phraya River Basin Organization a unit to provide a strategic flood action plan for the lower basin and strengthen the existing development planning control in the lower basin to prevent further encroachment into flood ways.

6) Legal framework: to support the implementation of the above strategies, such as the comprehensive new water law and the legislation for the introduction of discharge licenses.

(b) Important components of the ongoing water resources strengthening programme

Apart from the achievements in the development of a national water policy already mentioned, the ongoing water resources-strengthening programme is expected to achieve other important results through the implementation of the following components:

It may be important to note the active collaboration of many agencies and international organizations, including ESCAP and FAO, in the implementation of the components funded by the Asian Development Bank.

(c) Direction of water resources management in the Ninth National Plan (2002-06)

It was pointed out during the implementation of projects on water resources management that the Ninth National Plan would focus mainly on (1) balanced development, (2) quality of development and (3) strengthening of the national development foundation. In this connection, incorporation of water resources policies in the Ninth National Plan would aim to achieve strategic results at the end of the plan on conservation and rehabilitation of water resources and the establishment of management plans for the sustainable use of water resources and optimum efficiency and effectiveness. This would involve (1) establishment of mechanisms for the effective management of water resources at national, basin and local levels, (2) completion of the management plan, which includes a crisis management plan, (3) definition of a social code and water laws for assessment and public participation, (4) institutional reforms and (5) capacity building.

In tandem with the strategic incorporation of water resources management issues in the Ninth National Plan, efforts are made to vigorously implement the programme on decentralization of water resources management as stipulated in the new Constitution. According to Senator Pramote Maiklad, former director of ONWRC and former director general of the Royal Irrigation Department, the Constitution requires decentralization in three areas: (1) public participation in the development process, (2) decentralization of authority and (3) local participation in natural resource management.

· Viet Nam

The Law on Water Resources, enacted in May 1998, came into effect in January 1999, and current efforts to improve water resources management in the country are governed by the implementation of that law. This involves the promulgation of various decrees and the setting up of mechanisms for an integrated management of water resources. Important developments on the implementation of the law are listed below.

(a) Relevant features of the Law on Water Resources

The law, which deals with general rules on water resources management, stipulates the following principles: (1) water resources are publicly owned; (2) use, exploitation and protection of water resources is made according to plans to ensure their systematic management; (3) water resources must be used for several purposes; (4) the government guarantees the right of organizations and persons to use water; (5) organizations and persons using water are responsible for their investment; (6) international cooperation on rivers shared by many countries is in order and international laws must be adhered to; (7) management of water resources is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; (8) the National Water Resources Council is the government’s think-tank on important decisions; and (9) river basin planning and management agencies are to be established under the overall supervision of the ministry.

(b) River basin organizations

As part of the implementation of the water resources law, strengthening of river basin management was in progress, including the establishment of river basins organizations. Included in this category of activities are (1) strengthening of the National Mekong Committee for better cooperation through the Mekong River Commission and (2) establishment of the Red River Basin Commission. The process to establish RRBC provided several interesting features, as summarized below:

3. Findings from the project’s implementation

Achievements in the implementation of the pilot project can be considered at two levels, national and regional.

a. National level

In all four selected countries, the government agencies invited to take part in the pilot project were recognized by all water-related bodies as key agencies in the formulation and implementation of a national water vision. In the Philippines the National Water Resources Board of the Philippines, and in Thailand the Office of the National Water Resources Committee, both project counterparts, were recognized and recommended to be the lead agencies for the implementation of those countries’ national water visions. In Malaysia, the Malaysia Water Partnership, whose secretariat is provided by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, was promoted to lead the partnership in the implementation of the national water vision. In Viet Nam, the project counterpart was the Water Resources Planning Institute, which provides the secretariat for the Red River Basin Commission.

It must be pointed out, however, that the success in the implementation of the pilot project was also due in large measure to the results of previous efforts made by the South-East Asia Technical Advisory Committee (SEATAC) of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) together with the institutional network established by SEATAC. It may be further noted that in the countries where GWP work was well developed, a good spectrum of stakeholders could be involved in the development and implementation of the national water visions, such as in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. In Viet Nam, where large-scale GWP activities on water vision only began to take shape in March 2000, the national consultation workshop involved mostly government agencies reflecting mostly government policies or direction in water resources management. In the latest case, it appears advisable to hold further consultation workshops involving more NGOs and civic organizations in order to ensure the acceptance by all key stakeholders of the sense of ownership of the various components of the national water vision process.

b. Regional level

Through the partnership of FAO and ESCAP in the implementation of the pilot project, exchange of information on ongoing activities as well as existing networks was greatly enhanced. Among the key activities intensively discussed during the implementation of the project were the efforts of FAO in modernization of the irrigation sector and of ESCAP in promoting strategic planning and management in the water resources sector. Involvement of other regional organizations was also made as summarized below:

Nevertheless, the above achievements in collaboration with SEATAC and ADB and the partnership of FAO and ESCAP provided not only important evidence of the benefits of cooperation, but also strategic elements in the development of a regional strategy and programmes for long-term collaboration.


1. Context for further regional collaboration

It may be noted from the regional survey carried out by ESCAP in 1998 on experiences and practices in the region on the integration of water resources management into national economic and social development that only four of the 19 countries that responded were aware of the development of a national vision for development planning. Although great efforts had been made by many international organizations, it was found from the pilot project that the formulation of a national water vision and action plan would require further efforts to ensure the applicability of the new planning methodology. Besides, after the Second World Water Forum in the Netherlands in March 2000, the enthusiasm and momentum generated by the World Water Vision process is expected to turn into an international driving force to prepare the Third World Water Forum, to be held in Japan in 2003. In this context, regional collaboration in water resources management starting with the FAO-ESCAP partnership could be translated into a regional programme of action for which the interested regional agencies would have sufficient time to mobilize resources to participate in its implementation.

2. A regional programme for collaboration

The following features of such a regional programme have been formulated by ESCAP for discussion and funding:

a. Programme title: Integrated regional perspective of water resources development and strategic action programme for regional collaboration in Asia and the Pacific.

b. Time frame: January 2001-December 2002

c. Immediate objectives

d. Problems addressed and needs identified

As recommended in the Ministerial Declaration at the Second World Water Forum, the Secretary General of the United Nations called on governments to make efforts to reach the various targets identified, particularly the reduction of the number of people who do not have access to safe water supply and sanitation. The forum also enjoined the UN system to re-assess periodically the state of freshwater resources and related ecosystems, to assist countries, where appropriate, to develop systems to measure progress towards the realization of targets and to report in the biennial World Water Development Report as part of the overall monitoring of Agenda 21. In this connection, the General Assembly at its Nineteenth Special Session in June 1997 called for a strategic approach for the implementation of all aspects of the sustainable use of fresh water for social and economic purposes. It is therefore necessary to develop and implement a collaborative regional strategic action programme on water resources development and management to support efforts of developing countries to address regional economic and social priorities, in particular poverty alleviation, food security and environmental protection.

e. Project implementation strategy

In order to achieve a good integrated perspective of water resources management in the region, it is necessary to involve not only the member countries, but also key United Nations agencies, NGOs and the private sector. This strategy is expected to build on the achievements of the pilot project initiated by ESCAP and FAO on the formulation of national water visions. These concerted efforts will be developed and coordinated through the adoption and development of an integrated conceptual approach by key partners and a detailed programme of implementation. With such a conceptual approach and detailed programme, the project will have sufficient flexibility in management while facilitating coordination of efforts. Furthermore, the project also aims to develop a common method of strategic planning and management among the sectors region-wide and promote cooperation among a selected group of water resources planners and experts in relevant fields to form the core of a regional network to carry on the process beyond the Third World Water Forum.

f. Output

g. Target beneficiaries: Governments, training institutions, financing institutions and the private sector in developing countries and international agencies working in water resources. The project publications are expected to be of use to the ACC Subcommittee on Water Resources and CSD.

h. Activities

i. Scope of the work

The programme will involve assessing the integrated programme as well as various key water resources sectors in the region, including the following: (1) water supply and sanitation; (2) state of rivers, aquatic environment and nature; (3) food security, agriculture and rural development; (4) water and urban development; (5) education, training and public awareness; (6) gender mainstream in water resources management; (7) groundwater management; (8) economic usage of water, including hydropower development; (9) waterborne transportation development; (10) international achievements in river basin management; and (11) legal and institutional framework for water resources management.


1. Dayrit, Hector. Case study on the formulation of a national water vision: the Philippines, July 2000. National Water Resources Board, Manila

2. Facon, Thierry. Overview of the water vision for food, agriculture and rural development: strategic choices for countries, April 2000. Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, FAO, Bangkok

3. Le Huu Ti. A conceptual approach to the formulation of an action-oriented national water vision, April 2000. Water and Mineral Resources Section, ESCAP, Bangkok

4. Malaysia Water Partnership, Malaysia’s national water vision to action: the way forward, July 2000. Kuala Lumpur

5. Office of the National Water Resources Committee. Thailand’s water vision: a case study, July 2000. Bangkok

6. To Trung Nghia. Vision on Viet Nam’s water, life and environment in the 21st century, June 2000. Water Resources Planning Institute, Hanoi

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