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Priority themes for action

Overview of actions implied by adopting the Strategic Approach : Priority themes for action

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Institutional development and capacity building

The success of policies, programmes and services depends heavily on the resources, skills and technical expertise of the responsible institutions. These bodies need to be appropriately structured and provided with a legislative and administrative framework which favours efficiency. Devolution of some part of service delivery to the private sector may be one appropriate form of institutional development, along with the establishment of a suitable regulatory framework. The capacity of institutions needs to be enhanced by means of human resources development and training. The process should be continuous, and applies as much to formal as informal bodies, such as community groups.

Actions include:

  • advocacy on behalf of water as an essential resource with an economic value, particularly in areas of water scarcity; advocacy of policies and pricing regimes that discourage wastage and pollution;
  • investments in environmental protection of vulnerable areas such as wetlands, coastal zones and fisheries, marginal farming lands, deserts, and areas vulnerable to flooding and/or soil erosion;
  • support for measures which reduce environmental pollution by excreta-related bacteria (environmental sanitation, see Part III);
  • promotion of clean technology (see Part III) to reduce water consumption and encourage recycling;
  • training and material support to strengthen environmental agencies; support their role as watchdog to ensure that ‘polluters pay’;
  • environmental impact assessments (see Part III) to measure the potential or actual effects of water-related projects on the eco-system;
  • awareness-raising campaigns to educate government officials, professionals, communities and NGOs on the importance of natural resource management;
  • ensure the incorporation of water-related environmental issues into education curricula.
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Participatory structures and gender equity

Participation by stakeholders in a given programme or activity is not only desirable as a matter of democratic right, but to ensure that investments of money and resources correspond to demand for services, and to enable those services to be equitably managed in the interests of all. A participatory process allows stakeholders to take part in decision-making relating to policies and actions undertaken by formal bodies on their behalf, whereby they also accept a degree of responsibility for those decisions. Thus, mechanisms for the expressions of stakeholders’ views, especially those of users, are needed. Within participatory management structures, the role of women in household water and food security needs to be recognised, and special attention paid to involving them at all decision-making levels.

Actions include:

  • establishment of user groups, farmers associations, water and sanitation committees, and other expressions of civil society to participate in water resources management at local level; ensure that there are female as well as male members, and that they play a full part in decision-making;
  • provision of funds and networking support for NGOs involved at local level in community water and sanitation service schemes and small-scale irrigation;
  • gender-awareness training for personnel at all levels; gender-sensitive recruitment and promotion (see part III);
  • research activities targeted on meeting needs and demands of poorest users, ensuring that they have the opportunity to express their views and equitable access to service provision;
  • basic education and technical training at the lowest stakeholder levels so as to develop demand for health- and livelihood-promoting water and sanitation services and participation in management;
  • micro-project funds to enable community-based organisations and small NGOs to undertake local clean-up campaigns, establish artisanal enterprises and build small community installations (e.g. public latrines);
  • surveys of local indigenous water management techniques and enterprises; develop ways to build on and legitimise sound local practice.

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<h3>Natural resource management

The protection of the eco-system and the natural resources upon which all forms of life on earth depend should be regarded as an obligation. Water, as a key natural resource, is a strategic national asset and all policies related to it should be consistent and comply with environmental protection aims. Activities in this context have not, in the past, been given priority; since the 1992 Earth Summit, they are beginning to be given their due.

Actions include:

  • advocacy on behalf of water as an essential resource with an economic value, particularly in areas of water scarcity; advocacy of policies and pricing regimes that discourage wastage and pollution;
  • investments in environmental protection of vulnerable areas such as wetlands, coastal zones and fisheries, marginal farming lands, deserts, and areas vulnerable to flooding and/or soil erosion;
  • support for measures which reduce environmental pollution by excreta-related bacteria (environmental sanitation, see Part III);
  • promotion of clean technology (see Part III) to reduce water consumption and encourage recycling;
  • training and material support to strengthen environmental agencies; support their role as watchdog to ensure that ‘polluters pay’;
  • environmental impact assessments (see Part III) to measure the potential or actual effects of water-related projects on the eco-system;
  • awareness-raising campaigns to educate government officials, professionals, communities and NGOs on the importance of natural resource management; ensure the incorporation of water-related environmental issues into education curricula.

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Expansion of the knowledge base

Water resources development and management and delivery of water-related services can only be carried out effectively on the basis of real knowledge and information, including: Knowledge of water resources availability: surface and groundwater; information on water quality and its impact on users and the environment; knowledge of water and water-related demands and needs of households, of different productive sectors, and of society as a whole; water requirements of the eco-system, including the aquatic eco-system; knowledge of the good, bad or indifferent performance of water-related services, and their costs relative to water values.

Actions include:

  • supply of equipment, instruments and training in hydrological, hydrometric and hydrogeological data collection, storage and analysis;
  • surveys of water and wastewater service usage and potential demands, including willingness-to-pay and knowledge -attitude-practice surveys among potential users; capacity building in conducting the surveys (see Part III);
  • equipment and training for baseline studies into ecological needs and for monitoring ongoing changes in the water-related environment;
    promotion of water quality monitoring, including provision of laboratory equipment and training; the establishment of local water quality standards;
  • mechanisms for sharing information between different administrative levels and between sectors, agencies and stakeholders involved in water resources management;
  • establishment of monitoring and evaluation systems for water-related programmes and services in all sectors.

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Demand management and pricing

Demand management of water resources is the only viable alternative to indefinite expansion of supplies – a policy option not available in countries or regions facing implacable hydrological limits. Demand management implies some form of water pricing which, above a basic subsistence supply, is correlated with high and low water values, creating conditions in which the available supply is more efficiently used. The implication of demand management is that users will have a high level of motivation to maintain services and keep them in repair. Actions under this theme are closely inter-linked with those relating to institutional development and capacity -building, as well as with advocacy for a better understanding of water’s importance as an environmental resource.

Actions include: 

  • advocacy and awareness-building activities to create the necessary political climate to accept the principle that water is an economic good and should be subject to equitable and adequate pricing for all uses, agricultural, domestic and industrial;
  • studies and surveys to assess demand and willingness-to pay; support for the introduction of tariff reform and appropriate pricing regimes;
  • feasibility studies to determine the system and levels of charges needed for financial viability;
  • the establishment of a regulatory framework to monitor prices set by service providers (including autonomous public sector agencies) and protect the poor from exploitation;
  • advocacy of reduction of subsidies, bearing in mind equity considerations regarding services for low-income communities and other clearly identifiable ‘public good’ considerations;
  • promotion of economic analysis, including environmental economic analysis, ensuring that criteria of financial viability reflect true values of the resource and its amenity, environmental and health benefits (see Part III);
  • introduction of water saving technologies, leakage control, rehabilitation and repair of existing systems.

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Awareness raising and communications

Building political and public awareness of the need to value the economic, social, health and environmental values of water is very important. As an aid to successful programme and project implementation, and to ensuring maximum health and other impacts of services, the role of communications within programmes and projects is now widely recognised. Techniques of all kinds should be used to build awareness and provide for information exchanges between stakeholders. Without good communications, the development of strong participatory structures is likely to remain elusive. Policy- and decision-makers need to be made aware that supply-led service provision tends to enhance, rather than reduce, inequities because it leads to wastage. (See also Part III.)

Actions include:

  • seminars and ‘events’ which offer opportunities to promote the concept of water as a valuable resource to political leaders and senior administrators;
  • social mobilisation, involving all types of stakeholders, all sectors and all levels of administration, in action to improve sanitation and public health;
  • introduction of environmental and water-related components into education curricula and in information campaigns directed at the general public;
  • educational campaigns on sanitary behaviour, water storage and use, directed at the public, especially women; campaigns directed at men to enhance respect for women’s role in household water management;
  • studies into existing knowledge, attitudes and practice (KAP – see Part III) regarding water collection, use and management and waste disposal;
  • production of communications aids, and the use of TV, radio, advertising and other media for communication of public health messages;
  • exchange of experience, project models and best practice among managers and operators in different countries and localities, by visits, newsletters etc.
  • fostering inter-state and inter-country collaborative mechanisms where a river basin is shared and there are potential tensions over water usage.

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