United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper

                      EXPERT GROUP MEETING



                      27 - 30 January 1998

                        Harare, Zimbabwe

                          Cengiz Ertuna
                            Le Huu Ti

                          Paper No. 12 

                        Prepared for the 
            Department of Economic and Social Affairs
                         United Nations 


                          Cengiz Ertuna
                             Le Huu Ti
                      Economic Affairs Officer
                      Water Resources Section
        Environment and Natural Resources Management Division


     Since the adoption of Agenda 21, the development of strategic
approaches to freshwater continues to be a major challenge to the
developing countries in Asia and the Pacific, particularly with respect
to the rapidly increasing population and an increasing complexity of
economic liberalization.  Within such complex context of strategic
approach development, emerging policy issues identified by the recent
ESCAP meetings of experts are reviewed and some experiences of selected
countries in the region, including developed, newly developed and
developing members of ESCAP, are analyzed to illustrate the achievements,
the overall framework of freshwater resources management and the
continuing efforts being made in the region.  The emerging strategic
issues include urgent strategic issues for the regional economic and
social development and strategic issues that need to be tackled for
sustainable management of the water resources.  In that context, a brief
summary of ESCAP activities in the recent years is presented together
with possible future directions of regional activities that need to be
carried out at the national and regional levels in support of the
development of strategic approaches to the implementation of the
freshwater recommendations of Agenda 21.  


     The Asian and Pacific region extends over a total area of about 36
million km2 or 27 per cent of the world's land area (1997).  With nearly
60 per cent of the world's population and over 60 per cent of the world's
irrigated land, the region is more densely populated and more intensively
cultivated than any other region.  The region also displays various types
of physical features, from arid deserts to the most humid areas of the

     There is an extremely uneven distribution of precipitation over
different parts of the region.  For example, precipitation is
exceptionally abundant on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, on the
western slopes of the mountains of India and Indo-China, and on the
islands of Indonesia, which receive annually from 1,500 mm to excess of
3,000 mm of rain and in some locations considerably more.  On the other
hand, almost all the north-western part of the region is extremely dry,
with an annual precipitation of less than 200 mm.  Moreover, not only is
there a sharp difference in the amount of total annual precipitation, but
precipitation also varies considerably from one season to another during
the year.  The rainfall in a large part of the region is characterized
by a monsoon climate pattern with very distinctive dry and rainy seasons. 
During the long dry season, temporary water shortage is experienced in
many river basins, while during the rainy season severe floods may cause
tremendous damage in the same river basins.

     The Asian and Pacific region has several of the world's most
important river systems.  Seven of Asia's largest river systems, namely
the Chang Jiang, Huang He, Mekong, Ayeyarwaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges and
Indus, have a total drainage area of more than 6 million km2, much of
which is heavily populated, particularly along their lower reaches. 
Therefore, the economic development and the welfare of people in this
region are very dependent on the progress made in the development and
management of its water resources.

     Although the current per capita per year use of 400 m3 appears to
be only 12 per cent of the per capita renewable resources of 3,360 m3 of
the region, only a small portion of the renewable water resources can be
tapped.  This amount is less than the relevant estimates for the other
regions with the exception of West Asia.  Naturally, the per capita
availability has been decreasing with the high growth of population.  By
the year 2000, annual per capita water availability would be considerably
less compared with that in 1950, about one fourth in South Asia, one
third in North China and Mongolia, and forty per cent in south-east
China.  The most critical ten-fold reduction from 7,500 m3 per capita in
1950 is expected to occur in Central Asia, which is now experiencing a
severe water crisis in the Aral Sea Basin.

     The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific-1997 2/
pointed out that the ESCAP region has made major strides in economic and
social progress during the past half-century and per capita income growth
has been much faster than elsewhere in the world.  It also pointed out
that nevertheless, some 70 per cent of the world■s poor people live in
the ESCAP region.  Although most countries in the region have been able
to reduce the incidence of poverty in terms of the head-count ratio, the
rate of reduction appears to have slowed down since the mid-1980s in many
countries.  However, the overall impressive economic achievements
together with the rapid growth in the population put more and more
pressure on the limited availability of freshwater resources in the
region. Furthermore, the developing countries in the region have
generally made voluntary moves towards policy liberalization with the
expectation that such liberalization would have a favourable long-term
impact on their economies.  Such a policy liberalization and the rapidly
mounting pressure on the freshwater resources have resulted in an
increasing complexity in the management and development of freshwater
resources in the region.  This thus requires the development of strategic
approaches suitable to freshwater management in the region.  Important
strategic issues that need to be considered for such a development are
discussed below.


     At the regional level, strategic issues in freshwater resources
management are conceived in the context of regional economic and social
development and can be described in two groups: (i) urgent strategic
issues, and (ii) other strategic issues required for sustainable

A.  Urgent strategic issues in freshwater resources management

     Urgent strategic issues are those most faced by the developing
countries of the region and closely related to poverty alleviation and
equitable economic development.  A major problem in most countries of
Asia and the Pacific, as in developing countries in other regions, is
inefficiency in the use of water resources.  In major irrigation
countries, the widespread use of flood irrigation leads to low
efficiency, poor crop yields and degradation of the soil.  Water
utilities in the large Asian cities have been notoriously inefficient in
the past, with enormous quantities of water unaccounted for.  Hundreds
of millions of people live at the margins of cities, and uncontrolled
solid and liquid waste disposal into water courses and open areas has put
an enormous burden on the ability of urban water utilities to keep up
with the demand for good quality water.  Industries mainly use "once-
through" processes, with little thought of recycling or in-house water
treatment.  Toxic effluents are often discharged directly into the water
courses, causing existing water supplies to become contaminated.

     Many of the countries in the region have experienced problems in
major project structures and related systems covering dams, canals,
pipelines and equipment which are approaching the end of their useful
life, requiring huge public investments for their renovation.  Most of
the countries and areas in the region expect such problems in the future. 
Preventive maintenance is insufficient, resulting in general degradation
of the hydraulic structures and equipment and frequent failures. 
Interruptions in water supplies not only inconvenience the public but may
result in economic losses as well.

1.   Municipal and domestic water use

     Although domestic water use accounts for only about 7 per cent of
total withdrawals in the region, the rapid growth of urban centres in
many developing countries has put a severe strain on the availability of
safe water in large cities.  The lack of or inadequate availability of
water has in turn become one of the limiting factors in socio-economic
development as an important indicator of the quality of life in urban
areas.  Inadequate operation and maintenance procedures have
traditionally been a major stumbling-block to the improvement of water
supply and sanitation services not only in the urban but also in rural
areas of Asia and the Pacific.  A number of water supply systems in the
region which are lying in disrepair and require heavy expenditure for
rehabilitation reflects this situation.

     The first priority is to improve efficiency in municipal water
utilities, which often have volumes of unaccounted-for water amounting
to up to 50 per cent of total water supplied in some of the largest
cities of Asia.  Some deferment or reduction in the urban water supply
investment requirements could be achieved if the countries were able to
improve the operating efficiency of the existing infrastructure,
particularly in large cities.  Considerable water savings may be achieved
by reducing leakages and wasteful consumption practices.  Leak detection
programmes in Bangkok and Manila, for example, have led to a greatly
decreased quantity of unaccounted-for water usage, allowing for the
postponement of construction of new facilities.  Water pricing, including
effluent charges, is also an important instrument for stimulating
efficient use of water in the household and at commercial establishments.

2.   Agricultural water use

     Irrigation in Asia has been one of the most important activities
involved in the increase of agricultural production since the early
1960s.  Following the rapid growth of the 1960s and 1970s, the pace of
expansion in irrigation slowed considerably, owing to a lack of suitable
sites for reservoirs and opposition to new construction by
environmentalists and local farmers who could be displaced.  Further
increases in yields and production in the region will therefore have to
come from increased efficiency and more rational use of water on existing
irrigated land, and on rainfed agricultural land, rather than from
expansion of irrigated areas.

     In the region, traditional agricultural water policies have
concentrated on supplying water for irrigation to meet national
development goals.  In many countries the methods of irrigation employed
lead to low efficiency, poor crop yields and loss of fertility of the
soil.  There has not been much effort to promote the efficient use or
reduction of wastage of irrigation water.  The irrigation efficiency
level for most schemes in Asia is between 30 and 40 per cent.  As a
result, the ratio of actual irrigated area to planned irrigable areas is
also low, especially on large-scale projects.  If the water wasted were
made available for use, many water supply expansion projects could be
postponed and much larger areas of agricultural land could be irrigated. 
Common problems are: inadequate planning and design; deficiencies in on-
farm irrigation and drainage facilities; and poor operation and

     Urgent action is required to improve on-farm management in countries
with a poor record of efficient usage.  This would include: education and
training of extension staff; a clearly defined division of
responsibilities between farmers and irrigation authorities;
strengthening of water and soil management research under irrigation and
rainfed conditions; monitoring and evaluation of irrigation performance;
and establishment of realistic water pricing policies to reduce wastage
of water in agriculture.  Implementation of such measures will vastly
increase the yields, reduce the water use, keep the systems functioning
well, reduce problems, such as salinity and water logging, increase
incomes and reduce investment requirements.

3.   Industrial water use

     In developed countries with an established industrial base and water
pollution laws strictly enforced, industrial water demands are relatively
stable or even decreasing, owing to the introduction of water-saving
technologies.  In the developing countries of Asia, however, water
demands in industry are rising rapidly, with increased concentrations of
effluents being released.  Direct investment from industrialized
countries sometimes involves the establishment of polluting industries
in developing Asian countries which have less strict controls on
pollution than the home country.  Many industrial products require the
use of large quantities of water for each unit of output, and the rate
of water withdrawals per unit output is very high in the region,
indicating considerable inefficiency in the production processes. 
Furthermore, there are great variations in water withdrawals among
industries producing the same product.  Therefore, there is scope for
increasing the efficiency of water use by attaching regulations related
to the amounts of water to be used per unit of production and disposal
of effluents, and also by offering incentives.

B.  Other strategic freshwater issues on sustainable development

1.   Water resources assessment and quality monitoring

     In order to improve the management of water resources, there is a
need for greater knowledge about their quantity and quality.  In many
countries/areas of the Asia and Pacific region, there are considerable
inadequacies in the availability of data on their water resources,
specially on groundwater and water  quality.  There is a need for regular
and systematic collection of hydrological, hydrometeorological and
hydrogeological data to be accompanied by an adequate system for
processing quantitative and qualitative data on various types of water
bodies.  In order to be able to collect, analyze and disseminate reliable
information on water resources, it is necessary to strengthen the
existing mechanisms.  In some countries, different agencies collect water
resources data with no coordination between them at all.  There is a
serious need for strengthening and coordinating arrangements in
collection and processing of data and for improvement of data gathering
networks as well as for improvements of monitoring systems.  An inventory
of the country's water resources, including quality of water at each
source, needs to be prepared as soon as adequate data become available.

2.   Other water management issues

     In many countries of the region national water policies have been
developed some of which have been translated into national master water
plans.  In several countries, including China and India master plans have
been prepared at both the  national and provincial levels.  However,
there is a serious need to improve management of the water resources in
order to satisfy the freshwater requirements for sustainable development
of the countries of the region.  Traditionally, water resources
management has been supply oriented, without paying sufficient attention
to options for influencing water demand and increasing water use
efficiency.  The emerging trend is to take concerted or integrated action
towards conservation of water resources.  The holistic management of
water as a finite and vulnerable resource and the integration of sectoral
water plans and programmes within the framework of national economic and
social objectives are therefore of utmost importance to the countries of
the region.  Consequently, there is a need for the national governments
of the region to adopt policies and methodologies for integrated
management of their water resources based on comprehensive ecosystem
assessment, taking into consideration that the main task is the
allocation of available resources among competing uses in an
environmentally-sound, economically efficient and equitable manner in
order to satisfy the present and future demands of society for water and
water-related goods and services.  

     Watershed management is an area which needs immediate attention. 
Denuded watersheds have given rise to higher flood peaks and lower
discharges during the dry season.  Perennial flow patterns of rivers have
changed over time.  Erosion processes have increased, and higher sediment
flows threaten the survival of costly big reservoirs, particularly in
China and India.  Vegetative cover in the catchments needs to be restored
by reforestation and conservation.  It is feared that unless the threats
of deforestation, waterlogging and salinization are checked, large
schemes may end up with only marginal benefits.

     There is a need for strengthening of the international cooperation
in the region in the field of water resources management.  The experience
accumulated by some countries in the efficient management of water
resources has to be made available to other countries.  Cooperative
arrangements are particularly important for the joint management of
transboundary water resources by all riparian states concerned.

3.   Institutional and legal frameworks

     One of the major obstacles to efficient water resources management
in the region is the sheer number of public, semi-public and private
agencies involved in the exploitation of the resource.  Government
agencies dealing with water supply include ministries of agriculture,
health, rural development and industry, while semi-autonomous water
utilities in some cities provide municipal water supply.  Groundwater
resources may be exploited by mineral resources agencies or semi-public
agricultural cooperatives.  In some countries, each river basin authority
manages the water resources of one hydrological basin.  Various agencies
dealing with different water uses often carry out their activities in
isolation.  In addition, in many countries of the region, private
businesses, industries and farmers are pumping both surface water and
groundwater with very little overall regulation.  This uncontrolled use
of water has led to imbalances in the hydrological cycle, shortages for
some essential uses, a lowering of the water table in many areas, salt-
water intrusion and increasing costs for exploitation.  The lack of a
clear division of responsibilities between organizations for urban and
rural water supply, between central and provincial or local activities
and between public and private sector agencies results in duplication of
efforts without achieving national development goals.

     Legislation, regulating ownership, use and protection of water
resources support the national water policy statements in many countries
of the region.  Such legislation cover at least the ownership of and the
right to use surface water, as well as the protection of surface-water
quality.  Several countries, including Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, the
Republic of Korea, the Republic of Palau and Sri Lanka, have indicated
that their water legislation had not yet been formulated to regulate
ownership or the right to use groundwater.  This may contribute to
uncontrolled exploitation of groundwater in many areas, causing a decline
in the water table and land subsidence.  In many countries, such as
China, India and the Philippines, water is defined as public property. 
In these countries and others, national water policies emphasize the
multi-purpose use of water and provide for the coordination of the
development of water resources.

4.   Demand management and other economic issues

     As mentioned earlier, demand management has not been practiced
widely in the region.  There is a strong need for realistic alternative
measures to increase the efficiency of water utilization through demand
management rather than providing more water.  Unless water prices are
raised significantly and effluent fees are introduced, there are no
economic incentives for industries to save water.  Through enforcing
effluent standards and providing subsidies to reduce waste loads,
pollution levels could also be significantly reduced.   The industrial
sector could also be motivated to use appropriately treated municipal
waste water in processes which do not require good quality water.  In
India, for instance, industrial enterprises in the water-short city of
Madras have been willing to buy treated waste water from the city
authorities for reuse in their factories.

     In most of the irrigated lands of the region, there has not been
much effort to reduce wastage of irrigation water through pricing
mechanisms.  The countries have only recently attempted to collect water
fees for irrigation, mainly under conditions of water shortage.  If
properly implemented, however, pricing policies could reduce the wastage
of resources by ensuring the development of optimum-sized water systems. 
The difficulty of implementing irrigation pricing policies in Asia is
that, except for tubewell or pumping projects, it is very difficult to
assess the quantity of water actually consumed in most irrigation areas. 
Moreover, the majority of farmers may be unwilling to pay for an
unreliable and inadequate supply for water in some of the large
irrigation projects because of the low level of revenue collected,
operation and maintenance have been inadequate and systems have
deteriorated, resulting in unreliable water supply.  This is a vicious
cycle found in many developing countries of the Asian and Pacific region.


A.  An overall view of experiences in the region

     Towards integrated water resources management, as articulated in
Agenda 21, integration of sectoral water plans and programmes within the
framework of national economic and social policy, as a dynamic,
interactive, iterative and multisectoral approach to water resources
management is gaining recognition within the region.  For example, the
goal of sustainable development is implicit in the current Eighth Five
Year Plan of India (1992-1997), which underlines the significance of
ensuring a coordinated and integrated governmental action for conserving
nature and ensuring sustainable use of natural resources through a
participatory process.  In China's Agenda 21, it is recognized that the
realization of objectives of other fields of governmental planning
becomes increasingly dependent on successful water resources management.

     In line with parts of Agenda 21 related to freshwater resources,
most of the countries of the region have adopted or revised their
national water policies, reflecting the priority attached to water
resources development within the national socio-economic development
plans. For example, Indonesia undertook a major policy review of its
water resources policy during the period of 1991-1994 to meet the needs
of development and to accommodate the changing environmental and resource
requirements and society's aspirations.  The policy review took into
consideration the Agenda 21 approach to deal holistically with water
resources management issues and the four main principles of the Dublin
Statement.  In Pakistan, a comprehensive national water policy is
expected to be formulated to provide an appropriate framework for water
resources management by 1998.

     In a number of the countries of the region, national water resources
policies have been translated into action programmes or master water
plans.  The scope of these activities ranges from more sector-oriented
plans, such as improvement of water quality, to more comprehensive
development plans.  Following are some examples from countries in the
Asian-Pacific region:

     - In Bhutan, a Power System Master Plan (1994) has been formulated
to identify a number of possible sites for hydropower plants.  These
sites have been selected employing technical, economic and environmental

     - In Bangladesh, a National Water Plan II for the period 1990-2010
has been prepared as an updated continuation of the National Water Plan
which covered the period between 1985 and 2005.

     - In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Second Five-Year Socio-
Economic and Cultural Development Plan (1995-1999) includes a number of
objectives related to the environment and water resources.  Also specific
targets have been set for various water resources development projects.

     - Maldives has developed an action plan in the field of
environmental management which gives priority to the development of
national policy guidelines concerning wise use of groundwater resources.

     In several other countries of the region, the preparatory work for
the formulation or revision of national action plans has been initiated,
often with the assistance from international organizations.   In
Mongolia, there is the intention to revise the Master Water Plan
elaborated in the first half of the 1970s, in order to reflect adequately
the new social and economic realities of the country's transition period
to a market economy.  In Sri Lanka, it is envisaged to formulate an
action plan for comprehensive water resources management that will
synthesize the results of the subsectoral plans at the national planning
level.  The action plan is expected to have a positive effect on the
quality of investments in irrigation, water supply, power generation and
environment protection subsectors, and to strengthen their linkage with
national development goals.

     The concept of management of water resources within a river basin
or sub-basin context, facilitating integration of land- and water-related
aspects, has been widely applied in the region.  In Australia, China and
Japan, water management has been already been exercised at the river
basin level to a certain extent for a number of rivers of national
significance.  In India, the national water policy asserts that water
resources planning be undertaken for a hydrological unit, such as a
drainage basin or sub-basin.  In Indonesia, basin institutions for water
resources management, including for both planning and operation, have
been introduced recently in some river basins, but have yet to become
fully functional.

     Basin-wide approach might be quite beneficial to the management of
a large number of transboundary water systems in the region if the
riparians could agree to cooperate for formulation and implementation of
development plans.   For example, Indicative Plan for the development of
land, water and related resources of the Lower Mekong basin was prepared
in 1970 by the then Committee for Coordination of Investigations of the
Lower Mekong Basin, comprising Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. 
The Plan was revised in 1987, and at present a number of specific
projects identified in the Plan are being implemented under the auspices
of the Mekong River Commission, which was set up in April 1995 as a
replacement to the above mentioned Committee.  

     In Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan
and Uzbekistan reached in 1992 an agreement on joint management of
transboundary waters in the Aral Sea Basin, and established the river
basin authorities for the Amu-Darya and the Syr-Darya.   Rivers, which
are the main tributaries of the Aral Sea.  These authorities have been
entrusted with the main function of  allocation of the scarce water
resources available to the riparian countries, also taking into account
the need to release a specified amount of water into the Aral Sea. 
Bangladesh and India have recently reached an agreement on the sharing
the Ganga/Ganges waters at Farakka.  There are several other
transboundary rivers in the region, where the respective riparian
countries undertake jointly development and management activities in the
field of water and water-related resources.

     The old problem of fragmentation of institutional responsibilities
for water resources development, management and conservation among
sectoral agencies, central and provincial authorities, which had been a
major obstacle to the introduction of integrated water resources
management, has been alleviated to a certain extent in several countries
of the region by creating some institutional mechanisms for coordination. 
In China, India, Thailand and some other countries, there are interagency
coordination committees and groups composed of high ranking
representatives of various agencies and ministries dealing with water
resources issues.  However, the coordination of activities on water
resources development, conservation and protection needs further
improvement, particularly at lower administrative levels.  This is
particularly important in the light of the on-going exercise on
decentralization of responsibilities in the water sector, which is taking
place in several countries of the region.  

     Although most countries of the region have adopted water legislation
regulating to a certain extent the ownership, use and protection of water
resources, there is a need in some countries, especially in the countries
with economies in transition, to review the existing water legislation
in order to incorporate relevant provisions associated with the economic
value of water, rational use of finite water resources, protection of the
aquatic environment, etc.  For example, in Lao PDR, a Water Law has been
drafted recently and submitted for approval to the National Assembly. 
The proposed law aims to streamline policies on water resources
assessment, planning, use, quality and protection, and designates a
central administrator for water resources management.  In Mongolia, the
new Water Law that became effective from 5 June 1995, incorporates water
management concepts such as water resources development in the context
of sustainability, recognition of EIA procedures and some others. In
Central Asian states, water legislation is also being revised

B.  An analysis of the experiences in the development of strategic

     The experiences in the development of strategic approaches to
freshwater resources development and management in the region are rich. 
Such richness in experiences reflects the diversity of the economic,
social, cultural, political and environmental conditions in the
countries.  The experiences also reflect the priority issues identified
and urgent needs in water resources management conceived by the
respective Governments.  In general, these experiences can be viewed from
two distinct viewpoints: (i) the principal driving force for such a
strategic approach, and (ii) the process leading to a firm development
of strategic approaches.

1.   Towards an effective principal driving force

     In most countries, it is recognized that the Government plays the
principal driving force in a strategic approach to freshwater resources
development and management.  Several experiences in the region are
available in this respect.  Within the scope of this paper, two examples
are provided for reference.  

     The first example relates to the functions of the Governments as
extracted from the Australian experience: -Governments will work to
ensure that development decisions which impact on water resources are
based on acceptable water quality and quantity criteria, and that
management requirements to meet those criteria on a sustainable basis are
recognized.  Efforts will be focused on using water more efficiently;
allocating water for stream-flow and other environmental uses; and
minimizing pollution.  Careful resource management policies, pricing
policies aligned to the real value of the resource, and a national
approach to environment protection measures for water quality.■
(extracted from Australia■s National Strategy for Environment and
Sustainable Development - Water, 31 July 1996).

     The second example reflects efforts in enhancing the effectiveness
and efficiency of the principal driving force as reflected in the
following three important elements in the functioning of the Malaysian
Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID): (a) Integrated water
resources planning needs to be based on the -Total Planning Doctrine■ to
achieve a sustainable community as the fundamental objective of the
Malaysian Vision 2020 3/, (b) the DID work is guided by the vision: -
Towards excellence in the planning, development and management of water
resources for sustainable agricultural and socio-economic growth in line
with the national vision■, and (c) the DID aims to achieve its mission:■
To provide quality, efficient and effective services in the fields of
irrigation, drainage, river engineering, coastal engineering and
hydrology through sustainable development and integrated management of
the nation■s water resources.■

2.   Process towards strategic approaches

    The development of strategic approaches to freshwater resources
management needs to be specific to each country.  The stages of
development and success in such a process can be illustrated by the
following seven strategies recommended by the participants of the
Regional Consultation Workshop towards a Policy for Water Resources
Development and Management in the Asian and Pacific Region, organized by
the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in May 1996 (Towards Effective Water
Policy in the Asian and Pacific Region, Volume I: Overview of Issues and
Recommendations, Ed. Wouter Lincklaen Arriens, et. al., ADB, 1996)

(1)  Prepare and adopt a national water policy and action program. 
     Conduct a national water sector assessment, and formulate and
     implement a coherent national action program for water sector
     development, including a national water policy, a water sector apex
     body, water law, and strengthening of institutions, information,
     monitoring and learning. And mobilize government resources to direct
     the implementation of the national action program in a committed and
     sustained manner to the achievement of its objectives.

(2)  Invest to manage the country■s priority river basins.  Formulate and
     implement action programs for the country's priority river basins
     with investments in physical infrastructure, institutions, and
     capacity building for water resources development, management, and
     conservation. And mobilize public sector financing and sustain
     commitment to carry out these priority river basin programs.

(3)  Increase the autonomy, and accountability of service providers. 
     Formulate and implement phased action programs in the water supply
     and irrigation subsectors to increase the autonomy and
     accountability of water service providers including, as appropriate,
     commercialization, corporatization, private participation, and
     strengthening of community organizations. And vigorously promote
     local and viable revolving cycles of investment, customer service,
     and user charges to satisfy water demands in each use.

(4)  Develop incentive, regulation, and awareness for sustainable water
     use.  Formulate and implement incentives, regulatory controls, and
     public information and education programs to promote sustainable
     water use, economic efficiency, conservation environment protection,
     and water quality standards; and estimate the economic costs
     associated with government policies, strategies, programs, and
     projects that deviate from the economic optimum.

(5)  Manage the use of shared water resources and develop cooperation. 
     Develop programs to manage shared waters in the country, cooperate
     with other riparian countries in the planning, development and
     management of shared international water resources; and promote
     transboundary understanding, joint projects, and free exchange of
     information and experience.

(6)  Enhance water information, consultation, and partnerships. 
     Formulate and implement water sector policy, strategies, programs,
     and projects using systematically developed approaches to
     information, consultation, participation, public-private-NGO
     partnerships, and learning, to promote commitment to, and
     understanding of, actions agreed to be in the public interest. 

(7)  Invest in capacity building, monitoring, and learning.  Develop,
     implement, and sustain programs that will ensure the success of
     water sector development activities through capacity building,
     monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning at all levels,
     particularly in public sector institutions.

C. Remarks

     From our review, it was revealed that significant achievements in
the development towards an effective principal driving force reflected
the advanced stages of economic development of the respective countries. 
This is the case for the countries which have sufficient financial and
technical resources.  On the other hand, achievements in most of the
developing countries in the process of development of effective strategic
approaches are quite diverse.  The diversity of these experiences can be
described by not only the important progress in such a complex process
(amid the complexity of economic liberalization and democratization of
natural resources management) but also the difficulties in maintaining
continuity and consistency in policy and decision making due to the lack
of necessary financial resources and technical capacity.  These
constraints make it difficult to achieve the goal proposed in Agenda 21
for all the Governments to establish national strategies for integrated
water resources management by year 2000.  In such a context, the
challenge for the region is to develop an overall strategic approach to
help the developing countries in the region to firmly move towards
national strategic approaches to freshwater resources development and
management.  The rate of progress for such a process will depend on
available resources in the respective countries and assistance from the
international community.


A.  Recent ESCAP activities

     In the implementation of Agenda 21 in the Asian and Pacific region,
ESCAP has been focussing its efforts on assisting the countries of the
region in the formulation and implementation of plans and programmes in
the following major areas of integrated water resources development and
management in their national economic and social development activities:
preparation of guidelines on integrated and sustainable development of
water resources; water resources assessment; establishment of pricing
policies and structures for water supply; promotion of private sector■s
participation and investment in water resources projects; and promotion
of women■s role and participation in water supply and sanitation.  ESCAP
formulates regional projects, conducts studies, organizes expert group
meetings, workshop and seminars, disseminates information and provides
technical advisory services.  

1.   Integrated water resources development and management

     On the implications of Agenda 21 for integrated water resources
management in Asia and the Pacific ESCAP organized several expert group
meetings and regional workshops on the annual basis on various aspects
of integrated water resources development and management since 1992 to
review the progress, to exchange experiences among the countries and to
recommend possible strategies to overcome any problems and obstacles. 
In addition, in order to order to support the member countries in their
efforts on integrated development and management of their water
resources, ESCAP secretariat organized, among others, the following
activities since the UNCED:

     - Seminar and publication "Towards an Environmentally Sound and
Sustainable development of Water Resources in Asia and the Pacific",
December 1992

     - Seminars on flood loss prevention and management in Myanmar,
Pakistan, Iran, Solomon Islands (1993), and in Fiji, Samoa and India

     - Seminar and publication on Integrated Water Development and
Management in Asia and the Pacific (1995)

     - Advisory missions to member states on various aspects of
integrated water development and management, especially on integrated
river basin development planning (1992-1997).

     With respect to the most recent activities on sustainable
development of water resources, an ad-hoc expert group meeting was held
(Bangkok, 1996) followed by a seminar which finalized the guidelines on
water and sustainable development in the region (Bangkok, 1996) which was
published in 1997.   Another expert group meeting was held (Bangkok,
1996) to review and analyze water pricing policies and structures in the
ESCAP region, followed by two separate workshops, on the establishment
of pricing policies and structures for urban and rural water supply
(Manila, 1996) and the other for irrigation water supply (Jakarta, 1996)
which produced two relevant publications in 1997.

2.   Water resources assessment

     For assessment of water resources in the region, computer
applications were introduced through the organization of a regional
workshop (1993) and subsequent advisory missions.  Subsequently, another
regional workshop was held in 1995 to discuss and finalize a -Guidebook
to Water Resources, Use and Management in Asia and the Pacific■.  As a
result of these efforts, the following publications were produced:

     - A publication on Computer Applications for Groundwater Assessment
and Management, June 1993

     - Publications on the water resources in Japan (1994) and Myanmar

     - Guidebook to Water Resources and Water Use in Asia and the
Pacific (1995), presenting information on urban use and water demand in
45 countries/areas in the region.

     - A country study on China is under production.

3.   Water supply and sanitation

     ESCAP activities in this area focus on mobilization of community
participation and resources to contribute towards universal access to
water supply and sanitation.  These activities were carried out mostly
in collaboration with other United Nations agencies, particularly UNICEF,
DDSMS, WHO, UNDP-World Bank Programme on Water Supply and Sanitation. 
Among the major activities were the establishment of a guidebook on the
promotion of investments for water supply and sanitation projects and
promotion of the role and participation of women in water supply and
sanitation.  For the establishment of the guidebook on promotion of
investments, an expert group meeting was, at first, held to formulate the
contents of  the guidebook (Bangkok, 1996) and subsequently, a seminar
reviewed and finalized the guidebook (Pattaya, 1996).  A subregional
workshop on promotion of private sector participation in the water sector
was held (Macau, 1997), utilizing the guidebook as the basic material. 
With respect to the promotion of women■s role and participation in water
supply and sanitation, ESCAP organized, in close collaboration with other
international agencies, four  national workshops on the use of the
training modules of the United Nations Training Package on Women, Water
Supply and Sanitation (WWSS) in the Philippines, the Lao PDR,  Viet Nam,
(1996) and Thailand (1997).  The experiences learnt from the national
workshops were compiled and published in 1997 for wide dissemination.

     Other ESCAP activities on drinking water supply and sanitation were:

     - Workshop on testing of training modules on women, water supply
and sanitation, September 1992

     - Regional seminar on water management in urban areas, March 1993

     - Seminar and publication on Urban Water Resources Management

     - National seminars on urban water resources management, Viet Nam
(1993), Myanmar, Kazakhstan (1994)

     - National seminars in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan on drinking water supply and sanitation, 1994

     - Regional seminar on efficient water use in urban areas, Singapore

     - Advisory missions on improvement of drinking water supply and
sanitation and urban water management (1994-1997).

4.   Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic resources

     ESCAP has undertaken the following activities recently, with regard
to the protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic

     - Expert Group Meeting on Protection of Water Resources, Water
Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems, October 1994

     - Workshop on Water-related Problems in Low-lying Coastal Areas,
November 1995

     - Publication on Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and
Aquatic Ecosystems in Asia and the Pacific, 1995

     - Regional seminar to review the status of water quality problems
in Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, 1997.

     - Advisory missions on protection of water resources, water quality
and aquatic ecosystems.

5.   Other supporting activities

  ESCAP has also continued its work on natural disaster reduction,
particularly on flood control and management in the region.  A detailed
study on the natural hazards of the region was undertaken and a
publication on -Natural Hazards and Natural Disaster Reduction in Asia
and the Pacific■ was prepared (1995).  Appropriate land-use planning and
practices was an area where efforts were recently directed to reduce
damage due to water-related disasters and to enhance productivity of land
through watershed management.  A workshop was organized and the
Guidelines and Manual on Land-use Planning and Practices in Watershed
Management and Disaster Reduction was published in 1997.  ESCAP continues
to provide substantive support to the work of the Typhoon Committee and
the Panel on Tropical Cyclones.  ESCAP continues the promotion of
technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC) in the region and
to provide its traditional substantive support to the work of the Mekong
River Commission.

     ESCAP also organizes the IDNDR Day every October  with the
participation of the U.N. agencies and concerned government departments
in Bangkok.  ESCAP has also recently provided advisory services on
various aspects of water resources development and management and also
on water-related natural disaster reduction to Brunei Darussalam, 
Cambodia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Mongolia, the
Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Uzbekistan   In addition, ESCAP
continued to disseminate advanced technology and know-how on water
resources development and management through its various publications. 
These included the quarterly issues of the Water Resources Journal and
the semi-annual issues of Confluence.  

B.  Coordination of activities in the region

     The Interagency Sub-committee on Water for Asia and the Pacific was
established in 1978 as the Interagency Task Force on Water for Asia and
the Pacific in pursuance of the recommendation of the United Nations
Water Conference (Mar del Plata, March 1977).  At that time, the Task
Force was entrusted with the main function to assist cooperation and, as
appropriate, joint action among participating agencies in their
programmes to assist countries in the investigation, development, use and
management of water resources for all purposes, with particular reference
in the first instance to follow up to the Mar del Plata Action Plan,
approved by the United Nations Water Conference.

     In 1994, the terms of reference of the Task Force were revised in
order to strengthen its role in the coordination of regional activities
and to achieve a fully coordinated approach to fulfilling the needs of
countries of the Asian and Pacific region to implement Agenda 21,
approved by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(Rio de Janeiro, June 1992), in the key area of water resources.  Now,
the Sub-committee is assigned with responsibility for the formulation of
common strategies for concerted action by its member agencies at the
regional level for both the implementation of the recommendations of the
Mar del Plata Action Plan and the achievement of the goals set in chapter
18, dealing with freshwater resources, of Agenda 21.

     Since the inception of the Sub-committee, ESCAP has been serving as
its secretariat and maintaining liaison on behalf of the Sub-committee
with the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) Sub-committee on
Water Resources at United Nations Headquarters. The Sub-committee is
currently composed of representatives of the 16 participating
international organizations, with the Director of the Environment and
Natural Resources Management Division of the ESCAP Secretariat as
Chairperson, the Director of the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the
Pacific as Co-Chairperson, and the Chief of the Water Resources Section
of the above Division as Secretary.  Recently, the ESCAP/WMO Panel on
Tropical Cyclones and the Asian Institute of Technology joined the
Subcommittee as observers.


A.  A Plan towards strategic approaches

     Despite the experiences of having assisted the developing countries
in the region in water resources development and management for nearly
50 years, ESCAP needs to sharpen the focus of its programme in water
resources and prioritize its activities, due to the limited resources
available and the rapidly increasing requirements for technical
assistance and the increasing complexity of natural resources management.

     An effective plan for ESCAP activities aiming at assisting the
developing countries in the development of strategic approaches is
expected to be built on the past achievements and experiences.  Such a
plan needs to address the different levels of need of the countries and
to take into account their respective experiences and status of economic
and human resources development.  One of the most important challenges
for such a plan is to effectively assist the countries in mobilizing
maximum participation of all the corresponding stakeholders in the
respective countries.  Such assistance must ensure continuity and
consistency of the related activities so as to firmly establish a firm
process of development of strategic approaches.  From our experiences,
such a programme of assistance needs to aim at assisting the countries■
experts to help themselves and to mobilize participation of stakeholders
by themselves.  In that context, development and transfer of appropriate
tools and methodologies is indispensable.  On the other hand, ESCAP plan
needs also to address the urgent needs of water resources development and
management of the countries.  

     On the above basis, the programme of work of ESCAP in the water
resources sector has been structured along the following three main

     (1)  Promotion of tools and methodologies in strategic planning in
          water resources sector and compilation of related experiences
          in the region;

     (2)  Provision of technical assistance to the developing countries
          to address urgent needs in water resources development and
          management in the region; and

     (3)  Promotion of more active cooperation among the member
          countries and close collaboration among the international
          organizations and United Nations agencies dealing with the
          water sector.  In this connection, it is expected that the
          programmes of cooperation between ESCAP and the other
          international organizations will lead to a long-term
          partnership to effectively meet the increasing needs of the

     Throughout the past many meetings of experts in Asia and the
Pacific, the importance of integrated water resources management has
always been emphasized.  Depending on the stages of development of the
countries, strategic approaches may differ from one to another in respect
of priority areas, activities, scope, direction and expected goals for
the short and long terms.  Within such strategic approaches, priority
areas could play a deciding factor in the practicability and feasibility
of the respective implementation programmes.  Promotion of such
approaches together with cooperation in tackling issues in the priority
areas need stronger regional cooperation in priority regional issues. 
From the most recent expert group meeting of experts (Integrated Water
Resources Management in Asia and the Pacific, Water Resources Series No.
75, ST/ESCAP/SER.F/75, 1996), typical priority areas were identified for
the national and regional levels as reproduced below.

B.  Possible directions at the national level

1.   Policy and strategy formulation

(1)  Countries that have not yet formulated national policies and
strategies for integrated management of their water resources should do
so and adopt as quickly as possible such policies and strategies.  They
should take into consideration that the main task is the allocation of
available resources with priorities among competing water uses in an
environmentally sound, economically efficient and equitable manner, also
taking into account the social considerations, in order to satisfy the
present and future demands of the society for water-related goods and

(2)  The policies should be translated into action by means of the
implementation of basin-wide, regional and national plans and programmes
for optimal water resources development and protection.  A river
basin/sub-basin could be an appropriate unit for master water planning
and coordinated management, especially in countries with federal
structures, in which provincial or state governments have primary
jurisdiction over the development and management of water resources.

(3)  Review and revision of policies and action programmes in the water
sector should be carried out on a regular basis in order to reflect
adequately the recent socio-economic changes and trends in the respective
countries and to adjust accordingly the existing master plans in order
to fulfill their objectives.

(4)  In the national water policies the highest priorities should be
given in accordance with the priorities established in the relevant parts
of the water development and management activities of Agenda 21.  Special
attention should be given by donors, national Governments, local and
regional bodies to the drinking water supply and sanitation needs of
mountain regions, small island nations, arid and drought prone areas, and
urban poor areas to achieve the goal of universal access to safe water
and sanitation.

(5)  Urgent action towards conservation of water resources should be
taken in order to achieve sustainable water resources development. 
Within the framework of integrated water resources management, strong
emphasis should be given to measures to increase the efficiency of water
use, which is low in various sectors of the economy in many countries of
the region, particularly in irrigated agriculture.

(6)  The efficient utilization of water resources should be mainly
achieved through water demand management in the agricultural, domestic,
municipal and industrial and hydro-electric power sectors.  Water demand
management measures should be vigorously promoted by using economic
incentives and legal instruments wherever needed.

2.   Institutional issues

(7)  Diagnostic assessment of the organizational framework in the water
sector should be undertaken to identify overlapping institutional
responsibilities among sectoral agencies and organizations dealing with
water resources and to improve administrative and managerial structures
for the integrated management of water resources.  Institutional barriers
to integrated land and water resources management should also be
identified and removed.

(8)  Institutional fragmentation of responsibilities for water resources
management, impeding the promotion of integrated water management, should
be alleviated through effective coordination mechanisms.  To this end,
countries that have not set up mechanisms for coordinating all water-
related activities at the national, provincial or river basin/sub-basin
levels, should take action in establishing one to ensure an integrative
multisectoral approach to water resources management.

(9)  Responsibilities for water management should be delegated, to the
extent possible, to the lowest appropriate levels, to ensure the
involvement of water users including women in the planning,
implementation and management of water projects.  This would require
adequate public awareness and education for the efficient utilization of
water resources.  Where appropriate, more functions for the provision of
water services should be transferred to the private sector, financially
autonomous entities, and community organizations under the overall
regulation of the Government.  At the same time, the safety of the
structures and socio-economic responsibilities should also be ensured. 
The legal and administrative system should be further strengthened, in
particular with respect to the enforcement of regulatory measures.

(10) As lack of information for planning and decision-making is still a
significant problem, countries should enhance their capacities for water
resources assessment.  This may include a further strengthening of
coordinating arrangements in the collection and processing of data as
well as the improvement of monitoring systems.

3.   Economic aspects of water management

(11) More attention should be given to the economic efficiency of water
development projects, greater reliance on water pricing and mobilization
of resources of the private sector and communities.  The economic
efficiency of projects could be improved by rehabilitating deficient
systems (for example, those with waterlogging and salinity problems),
reducing wastage and unaccounted-for water, recycling and reusing waste
water and improving operation and maintenance.  Efforts should be
strengthened to recover a larger proportion of investment and recurrent
costs for water resources projects and services.

4.   Human resources development

(12) High priority should be given to the development of human resources,
since the decentralization of water resources management necessitates
training of water management staff at all levels.  Training capacities
should be adequately strengthened and updated from time to time taking
into account the advances made in the sector through research and
development efforts.

(13) To further promote water use efficiency and water conservation,
activities to raise public awareness and education for increased user
participation should be continued and where possible accelerated.

C.  Priority issues at the regional level

1.   International cooperation

(14) International cooperation in the field of water resources management
should be strengthened in Asia and the Pacific.  Further regional
cooperation should be aimed at the exchange of information and
experiences in such areas as the formulation of master water plans and
investment programmes; water resources assessment and demand estimation;
integration of water and land management; promotion of water conservation
through improved water-use efficiency; water demand management;
institutional reforms including decentralization of management to local
authorities, private enterprises, communities, non-governmental
organizations, etc.

(15) Regional cooperation should also be promoted to support the efforts
of the countries concerned in education, training and research in the
water sector with a view to strengthening their ability for integrated
management of water resources in a sustainable way.  Countries which have
training potential should be encouraged to accept trainees from other
member States through regional cooperation.

(16) ESCAP, UNEP and other international organizations and agencies
should widely disseminate knowledge and information among national
Governments and institutions on integrated water resources policy
development and management techniques and policies by organizing
activities such as seminars, workshops, regional expert group meetings
and study tours, and preparing pertinent guidelines reflecting prevailing
socio-economic and environmental conditions of the countries in the

(17) There should be a quantum increase in external assistance from donor
countries and agencies for the water resources development of developing
countries of the region in line with the priorities indicated in chapter
18 of Agenda 21.  Economic viability should not be the sole criterion for
such funding, but social benefits in the long run should also govern the
activity so that implementation of the provisions in chapter 18 and other
relevant chapters of Agenda 21 could be speeded up.

2.   Transboundary water resources

(18) In the case of transboundary water resources, riparian countries
should be encouraged to harmonize, where appropriate and in conformity
with existing arrangements, their water resources strategies and action

(19) Cooperation between countries for the integrated management of
transboundary water resources could include the exchange of relevant
hydrological and meteorological data and information on the environment,
joint studies on the assessment of transboundary water resources,
notification and consultation on planned development activities in the
water sector, collaborative planning of transboundary water resources
development wherever feasible, and implementation of mutually agreed
water resources development projects.

(20) The experiences gained in the joint development and management of
water resources in the Lower Mekong Basin and in the Aral Sea Basin by
respective riparian States should be disseminated widely.

D.  Preparation for the future

     Within the context of the development of strategic approaches in the
region, ESCAP is making efforts to collect existing strategic planning
methodologies in water resources and related experiences in the region
for review and subsequent dissemination.  It is hoped that ESCAP will be
able to benefit also from the experiences of the other international
organizations and United Nations agencies.  In this connection, efforts
will be made to strengthen the existing close cooperation with the other
United Nations agencies, international organizations and other regional
organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank, the Mekong River
Commission, the Typhoon Committee, the Panel on Tropical Cyclones, and
the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) towards long-term partnership in
water resources management.  It may be noted that a programme of close
collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) has recently
been initiated during a meeting between the ESCAP Executive Secretary and
AIT President.  Within such a programme, it is expected that a detailed
plan will be worked out at a later stage in order to help build up long-
term partnership in human resources development in support for the
development and implementation of strategic approaches to freshwater in
the region.


1/   The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. 

2/   Asia and the Pacific into the Twenty-first Century: Development
Challenges and Opportunities, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the
Pacific-1997, ST/ESCAP/1727, New York, 1997.

3/   To achieve Vision 2020, which is based upon the underlying premise of
attaining balanced communities, a comprehensive and universal planning
doctrine has been formulated.  This "Total Planning Doctrine" is a guiding
principle for development planning processes. The doctrine postulates that man
is the focal point for development.  As part of the planning processes,
accurate and timely indicators for key policy variables, particularly
performance indicators which measure conditions and changes in human
settlements, are required.  Identification of indicators for measuring
sustainability of development plan is carried out at two levels.  The first
involves the identification of land-use planning criteria for sustainable
development.  In this respect, the goals of sustainable development
are used, i.e. resource conservation, built-environment in harmony with
natural environment, environmental quality and social equity.  The second
involves the identification of land-use planning criteria for sustainable
community.  To ensure wide acceptance and full support from the public,
Malaysia has been exercising a consultative process at all levels in order to
get opinion from the public, based on the moderation approach, on all aspects
before any decision is made.  The success of realizing sustainable community
is largely dependent on the extent of commitment from the public and the local
government.  Thus, people empowerment and decentralization of power to the
local government are the major agendas being addressed in Malaysia. (Extracted
from "Planning Practices in Malaysia" prepared by Puan Hajjah Norasiah Bte Hj.
Yahya, representative of the Federal Department of Town and Country
Planning, Peninsular Malaysia for discussion at the Workshop on Guidelines and
Manual on Land-use Planning and Practices in Watershed Management and Disaster
Reduction, Bangkok, Thailand, 18-21 March 1997.)

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Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD