River basin management: additional guidance and a framework for the analysis of case studies
|"Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods"|
9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
Kampala, Uganda, 8-15 November 2005
River basin management: additional guidance and a framework for the analysis of case studies(Resolution IX.1 Annex C i)
ContentsI Introduction: Challenges for integrating wetlands into river basin managementI.1 Communication between water and wetlands sectors
I.2 Cooperation and cooperative governance between the water and wetlands sectors
I.3 Upscaling to basin level - sequencing and synchronisation of planning and implementation activitiesII The "Critical Path" approachIII Description of Critical Path activitiesIII.1 The planning phase (Steps 1 to 6)
III.2 The implementation phase (Step 7)
III.3 The strategic phase (Steps 8 and 9)
III.4 Crosscutting issues and points to noteIV "Start anywhere; just get started"IV.1 The Critical Path as an analytical tool
IV.2 Key places to resolve bottlenecks
IV.3 Synchronisation with other sectoral planning and management cycles
i) Communication of policy and operational needs and objectives across different sectors, primarily the water and wetlands sectors;ii) Cooperation between sectors and sectoral institutions, ranging from informal collaboration to formal cooperative governance; andiii) Sequencing and synchronization of planning and management activities in different sectors, including land, water and wetlands.
i) first, how to articulate and quantify the requirements of wetland ecosystems in the operational currencies of river basin management; andii) second, how to work with water managers to develop basin operating rules and flow regimes that represent the optimal allocation of water between multiple uses, including ecosystem maintenance.
i) progressive planning, survey and decision-making activities related to water resources (Steps 1 to 6);ii) on to implementation of wetland management objectives (Steps 7a and 7b); followed byiii) strategic steps of monitoring, reporting and review of objectives and plans (Steps 8 and 9).
Step 1: Policy, regulatory and institutional contexts37. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 2, 3 and 4 for further detailed guidance.38. It is generally necessary to ensure that the policy, regulatory and institutional arrangements are supportive of efforts to integrate wetland management into river basin management. Reviewing policy and legislation can be a lengthy process, and although it can be undertaken in parallel with the other implementation steps 1 to 5, implementation (Steps 7a and 7b) will definitely be compromised if this step is not sufficiently advanced, and preferably substantially completed, by the time implementation begins.39. A specific bottleneck can occur in relation to the legal status of water allocations and entitlements, since water allocations for wetland ecosystems are unlikely to be implemented until given some status in law, whether this is in statutory or customary law.40. Complete revision of existing laws and policies is not always necessary, and also can be difficult and very slow if not supported at the political level. It is often sufficient to identify and analyse:
i) policies and laws from various national sectors (such as water, agriculture, environment, economic development, social development) that positively support the integration of wetland management with river basin management, and that generally contain shared principles and objectives;ii) policies, laws and regulations from various national sectors that conflict with the objectives of integrating wetland management and wise use into river basin management, and where revision or reform may be necessary; andiii) policies, laws and regulations that can be used for sanctions or enforcement purposes during the implementation phase if necessary, such as pollution prevention, land use planning controls, resource exploitation limitations.41. Policies and laws can be formal and based in the statutory legal system of a country, or they can be customary and based in particular community systems of practice and law. The principles of identifying the supporting and conflicting elements of policy and law apply equally to statutory as to customary law, although the challenges of integrating statutory and customary systems, and providing for a pluralistic legal environment, can be significant.42. New institutional arrangements, at international, national or local levels, are likewise sometimes politically difficult to implement from scratch, and it is necessary and generally better to begin working with the existing range of responsible and interested institutions.43. Memoranda of cooperation, or cooperative policy, can be used to formalize relationships when necessary. As relationships and understanding grow, the structure and function of new institutions that would be more appropriate to the task should emerge, and institutional reform and restructuring will then have more support.
Step 2: Stakeholder participation process44. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9 for further detailed guidance.45. Although, for convenience, this is noted as a single discrete step in Figure 1, in fact participation of interested, affected and accountable stakeholders is a process that should continue throughout the cycle of the Critical Path.46. At different steps, different stakeholders may need to be involved, and the process may take various forms from awareness-raising, through participatory appraisal, consultation, participation and formal negotiation.47. Participation is included as Step 2 because the participatory process must be designed early in the cycle and properly resourced. Training, as well as the preparation of information and learning materials, may be needed well ahead of the key planning step of setting priorities (Step 4). In addition, it is important to allow enough time to identify all the relevant stakeholders, well before key implementation decisions are taken.
Step 3: Technical studies (inventory, assessment and hydrological function)48. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 7, 8, 10 and 12, Resolution IX.1 Annex C i, and Ramsar Technical Report (in prep.) "Reviews of environmental flow methodologies for wetlands" for further detailed guidance.49. This is a step that can be initiated early in the process, and it can run in parallel with policy and institutional development as well as participatory and consultation efforts. The scope of work and the level of technical detail required for these studies is partly influenced by priority-setting in Step 4; it may be necessary to undertake more detailed or intensive field studies on wetland ecosystems which are considered priorities due to importance or sensitivity. Nevertheless, Step 3 can begin with desktop studies, later progressing to much more detailed field work, according to a fieldwork and measurement programme which is informed by planning priorities.
Step 4: Setting agreed priorities for wetlands in the basin50. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 1, 4, 5, 11 and 12 for further detailed guidance.51. It is vitally important that this step includes all stakeholders, and that it is well structured and formalized, with appropriate records of decision on the relative priorities of all wetlands in the river basin.52. Some wetlands may be afforded a higher protection status than others, due to their importance in conservation, economic, social or cultural terms, their sensitivity, or the dependence of local populations upon their benefits/services.53. The List of designated Ramsar sites provides a tool for recognizing and agreeing on wetlands of international importance, which in turn will convey a high protection status in the river basin management plan, but similar tools are needed to recognize wetlands of regional, national or local importance, or those of hydrological importance within a basin. Note also that not all wetlands which qualify as internationally important have as yet been designated by Contracting Parties, and the importance of any such sites not yet designated should also be taken into account.54. Ensuring that this step is formalized, participatory and well-informed will greatly assist in prioritizing implementation actions later, including the use of financial resources as well as the allocation of water.
Step 5: Setting quantitative management objectives for wetlands in the basin55. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 4, 8 and 12, Resolution IX.1 Annex C i, and Ramsar Technical Report (in prep.) "Reviews of environmental flow methodologies for wetlands" for further detailed guidance.56. This is primarily a scientific task, but it still requires the participation of responsible agencies as well as affected stakeholders.57. The agreed priorities assigned in Step 5 must be translated into practical, measurable, implementable and enforceable management objectives. These objectives need to then be integrated into the business planning of the responsible land, water and environmental management agencies, as well as into any community or customary use agreements.58. These objectives also form a very important baseline against which to assess environmental impacts at later stages.
Step 6: Integrated land and water management plan for the basin59. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 1, 4, 8, 10 and 12 for further detailed guidance.60. This is a very important step in the cycle, and one at which it is essential that the different sectoral planning and management processes are synchronized and integrated.61. Whether this is an initial concept plan (based on desktop studies and containing limited detail) or a comprehensive operational plan for land, water and wetland management in the basin, ideally there should be a formal plan, signed off by all the responsible agencies, and with one agency formally accepting the lead role in implementation.62. There is no single best way to set out such an integrated plan, and each country or basin should consider what format and structure would be most appropriate for their own situation.
III.2 The implementation phase (Step 7)Steps 7a and 7b: Parallel and integrated implementation at wetland and basin level63. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 4, 8, 11 and 12, Resolution IX.1 Annex C i, and Ramsar Technical Report (in prep.) "Reviews of environmental flow methodologies for wetlands" for further detailed guidance.64. Countries or basin authorities may have considerable experience in implementing either site-level wetland management plans or basin-level water resource management plans. However, the challenge generally lies in the implementation of these two instruments in parallel, while ensuring integration, consistency and synchronization at particular times and places.65. Spatial and temporal planning scales are often very different, depending on the sector and the objectives; separate agencies may be responsible for the lead in each case; business planning cycles may not be matched; effective communication channels for data, information, policy and problems may not have been established.66. Sometimes the problems of working in parallel can be addressed through a joint working group which is fully inclusive of the various agencies and interest groups. This could have the status of, for example, the governing board of a basin authority, or it may be a much less formal working group of technical officials who meet often to discuss and resolve operational problems.67. Whatever the level at which the joint working group is established, it needs political support from the highest levels of all the organizations and agencies that are members of the working group. If this political support is not forthcoming, then committed technical field officials can often address most operational problems, but their work can be greatly hampered by legal challenges (for example, related to water allocations) and lack of organizational policy guidelines.III.3 The strategic phase (Steps 8 and 9)
Step 8: Monitoring and reporting at wetland and basin level68. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 8 and 10 for further detailed guidance.69. Sustainable adaptive ecosystem management approaches generally rely on the inclusion of explicit monitoring and reporting steps to close the cycle. This step provides the "glue" which holds the whole Critical Path together. Yet monitoring and reporting activities are often those for which the least time and money is budgeted, and they are often the first to be cut back when budgets are tight.70. Monitoring programmes need to be designed against the priorities and objectives set in Steps 4 and 5. There is little value in monitoring if the resulting information cannot be used to assess achievement of or progress towards the agreed management objectives for the river basin and for the wetlands within the basin.71. It is likely that some of the management objectives will be social or economic, related to livelihood protection and enhancement. For these, the monitoring programme will then also need to provide information to track progress on these objectives, as well as on more widely-understood hydrological and ecological objectives. Performance criteria against which to evaluate the progress and management of planning and implementation activities are also necessary.72. Information on status, trends and progress may need to be packaged in different ways for different audiences such as politicians, agency managers, stakeholders, and community interest groups.
Step 9: Review, reflect and revisit plans and priorities73. Refer to Ramsar Handbooks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, Resolution IX.1 Annex C i, and Ramsar Technical Report (in prep.) "Reviews of environmental flow methodologies for wetlands" for further detailed guidance.74. Like monitoring, this is a critical strategic step whose importance is generally greatly underestimated. There are two levels of review:
i) At the operational level, monitoring results can feed back very quickly into refined management objectives or remedial actions, without necessarily requiring substantive review of the formal basin and wetland management plans;ii) Formal strategic review of wetland and basin management plans should be conducted on a regular basis (5 to 10 years is an appropriate time period, but it can be matched to business planning cycles). As a result of this review, management priorities and objectives may be substantively revised (rather than just refined) to take account of changing ecological, social or economic conditions.75. If carried out properly at both operational and strategic levels, this review step closes the Critical Path cycle and ensures effective "learning-by-doing", which is the foundation principle of adaptive management of ecosystems.III.4 Crosscutting issues and points to note76. A number of key issues are not linked to any specific step, but can cause problems anywhere in the Critical Path if they not attended to. These include:
i) Ensuring adequate technical, institutional and infrastructural capacity, in good time to prevent bottlenecks. This includes specialist hydrological and ecological expertise, as well as expertise in policy, legal and institutional matters. Institutional capacity may be needed in the form of budgets, if not actual delegations, secondments or assignments of responsible staff where no institutions at all exist to initiate the process.ii) The value of sustained, credible leadership. This often comes down to a single, committed individual with strong leadership skills and the ability to mobilize people into integrated teams. Political leadership of this kind is just as important as the facilitation-style leadership of the person or group who manages to get all the stakeholders, agencies and interested groups to reach consensus at various stages of the process.iii) Providing a continual flow of information into the process. Integrated, adaptive approaches, such as the Critical Path approach described here, are being applied in many different situations around the world. Ensuring a continual flow of information on best practices, new developments and new scientific tools and techniques, will improve application "on the ground".iv) Ensuring a continual flow of information out of the process. The importance of communication and awareness initiatives, at various levels from policy and technical through to the general public, cannot be overestimated. A free flow of information, appropriately packaged, greatly reduces resistance to change and helps people to see the benefits of working towards multiple social, environmental and economic objectives in a river basin.IV. "Start anywhere; just get started"IV.1 The Critical Path as an analytical tool77. Although it appears to be a strongly sequential and thus constraining process, in fact the maxim of the Critical Path is "Start anywhere, just get started". The value of applying this approach is that, even when a specific implementation process seems to have broken down completely at wetland level, the Critical Path can be used as an analytical tool to identify gaps, obstacles and bottlenecks related to water or river basin management issues, solve the most acute of these, and hopefully get implementation back on track and progressing again.IV.2 Key places to resolve bottlenecks78. If the process seems blocked, perhaps due to inability of stakeholders to agree on priorities, or unwillingness to trade off other values in order to meet wetland needs for water, then two key places to revisit are Steps 2 and 4.79. In these steps, the legitimacy and feasibility of the priorities for wetlands are decided. If the stakeholder process has not been sufficiently inclusive or participatory, this could lead to perceived failure of the legitimacy of objectives. If the priorities that are set for wetlands in a basin are not practical or feasible, for example in terms of the amount of water that must be released from a dam, then this will probably lead to failure to recognize the wetland objectives and hence failure to implement them.IV.3 Synchronisation with other sectoral planning and management cycles80. Deciding where to start is also influenced by the status of the larger water resources and land planning processes which may already be ongoing in a river basin.81. The Critical Path approach is focused on wetlands and their role in a basin: this wetlands-focused cycle should be recognized as being nested within or closely linked to other planning and management cycles. Understanding the status and progression of these other cycles, particularly the water resources cycle, assists in synchronizing the wetlands cycle with these other cycles and avoiding duplication of work.82. For example, Step 3 in the Critical Path requires technical studies related to wetlands. If this is carried out at the same time that water managers are undertaking a water resources situation assessment and yield analysis for the basin, much information and data can be shared between the two cycles.83. Step 4 in the Critical Path for wetlands should ideally be synchronized with the participatory process led by the water sector to decide on water allocation priorities.84. Specialist CEPA initiatives from the wetlands sector can support the building of links and synchronization between the wetlands Critical Path and other sectoral processes. If the other sectoral processes are not well-structured, then focused CEPA initiatives could help to identify and clarify current processes in other sectors, in order for the wetlands sector to link with them.85. If the other sectoral processes are well-structured but perhaps well ahead of the wetlands sector planning and management process, then rapid or desktop execution of steps in the Critical Path should be considered in order for the wetlands sector to "catch up" and at least get wetland needs and values on the water agenda in the basin. Critical Path steps can be executed more fully in the second iteration of the cycle.
Figure 1: Generic version of the "Critical Path" approach. Note that stakeholder participation and other CEPA tools should continue throughout the entire cycle.
Dickens C., Kotze D., Mashigo S., MacKay H. & Graham M. (2004). Guidelines for integrating the protection, conservation and management of wetlands into catchment management planning. Water Research Commission Report Number TT220/03, Pretoria, South Africa. Available on request from the Water Research Commission www.wrc.org.za.