Social Dimension of Water Resource Management in Sri Lanka – Part 6

by Delgollage Senevirathne, Assistant General Manager (Sociologist) at the National Water Supply & Drainage Board (NWSDB), Sri Lanka.

(10) Gender sensitive approach to and participation in water issues countering caste, political and religious discrimination in access to water

Access to water is directly dependent on women participation in fetching water as they are held mainly responsible for provision of water at household level on a continuous basis particularly when they have to depend on non-point sources available in fair distances away from their households. Hence their participation is considered as an important factor in decision making process for developing water supply connections at their households. Caste and wealth are major factors in influencing the political hierarchy in promoting public funds to develop water supply projects among the minority communities particularly among the Tamil population. There is no religious discrimination in access to water. All religious institutions and people belonging to different religions are equally treated in deciding on the water supply development projects.

(11) Dealing with political and social corruption

As over 80% of land in Sri Lanka is state owned and water resources in the form of rivers, lakes and manmade reservoirs and irrigation tanks and seasonal ponds are state owned all decisions are made by the government on the basis of the information supplied by the state institutions responsible for servicing the different sub-sectors of water resources viz. Irrigation Department, Water Supply and Drainage Board, Ceylon Electricity Board ( for hydro-power), Water Resources Board ( for ground water investigations), Central Environmental Authority ( for water quality), Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka ( for multi-purpose reservoir management) and National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka ( NAQDA – for aquaculture development). The Political hierarchy is holding the monopoly on state owned resources of land and water. Hence the directions are provided by the government. As there is poor accountability on the part of government in decision making on a rational basis in allocation of resources, there can be corruption arising from favoritism as monopolistic actions coupled to directions made by the government political authorities will be more influential than accountability factors thus leading to corruption.

In order to maintain equitable sharing of water resources among all different types of users, there should be rational allocation mechanisms that are unbiased with no political influence for decision making that will ensure equal emphasis on marginalized population vs. elite communities in a society.

There should be an institutional mechanism to resolve such issues arising from biased decisions on allocation of water among water users.

(12) Maintenance of two way communication (horizontal and vertical)

Community interactions will be required at village level to resolve water issues among different users such as water for irrigation vs. water for water supply (drinking and bathing/ sanitation and domestic use) vs. water for tourism / industries / business units etc. and managing polluted water that will refer to water allocation principles among different users while maintaining water quality parameters. Hence horizontal integration will take place at village level that will include state government institutions responsible for service provision in different sub-sectors.

In a river basin context covering down stream, mid stream and upstream stakeholders, there should be vertical integration as they will have different issues in relation to water. Upstream issues may be related to watershed management and erosion due to soil degradation, mid stream issues will be related to water allocations for different uses such as irrigation vs. water supply vs. hydro power with restrictions to release of water for irrigation services, and in downstream issues will be due to diversions upstream that will restrict environmental flows and sand mining, deepening of groundwater tables, and pollution issues due to heavy concentration of industries and settlement schemes etc.

Hence vertical integration among district/ divisional, provincial and national level stakeholder consultations will be important to resolve the water issues.

Ultimately, horizontal and vertical integration will have to merge together to arrive at a reasonable and fair decision making to arrive at solutions for water issues.
NWSDB is an RWSN Member Organisation. To find out more visit the RWSN main website.

D.Senevirathne Assistant General Manager (Sociology)   Policy and Planning Division   National Water Supply and Drainage Board
Assistant General Manager (Sociology)
Policy and Planning Division
National Water Supply and Drainage Board

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit to find out more

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