4.4 What is integrated water resource management?

Water resources management enables the effective allocation of water resources across all water uses through the establishment of institutions, infrastructure, and an information system. It manages both the quantity and quality of available water together with establishing an incentives system that encourages and supports good water management. It requires collaboration between sectors and stakeholders and the proper use of scientific data to inform decision-making.

The definitive definition of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) was outlined at the International Conference on Water and the Environment, which took place in Dublin, Ireland, in 1992, known as the Dublin Principles. They state that IWRM is a process promoting the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, so as to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable way without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems and the environment.

Question 3

Based on your study and your own experience, which of the following initiatives do you feel should be part of a water resource management policy in Myanmar?


Ensuring a sufficient quantity and quality of drinking water


Ensuring access to a sanitation system for all


Ensuring enough water for food production


Ensuring enough water for energy generation


Ensuring inland waterways are navigable for inland transport


Sustaining healthy water eco-systems


Protecting the beauty and spiritual values of lakes and rivers


All of the above

The correct answer is h.

Water resource management also means managing water-related risks, such as floods, drought, cyclones and contamination. This involves a delicate trade-off between the economic goods that water resources bring for crops, inland fisheries, mining and hydropower generation for example, and protecting ecosystems and water quality.

For example, as you learned earlier, Myanmar has lost a large percentage of its forests, cut down for fuelwood as the main source of energy, and unrestricted and unplanned agricultural expansion for farmland. But forests offer natural flood protection, and without them, farmland is more prone to flooding and crop loss. Similarly, heavy irrigating of agricultural land leads to chemical run off, which pollutes drinking water and threatens human health whilst untreated industrial waste pumped into rivers and lakes threatens biodiversity and ecosystems.

Knowing what choices to make is difficult, but it is important to realise that change in one dimension of a freshwater ecosystem is likely to have impacts on other dimensions that could be unwelcome by the human population. Thus, economies and ecosystems require integrated management that accounts for the synergies and trade-offs of water's great number of uses and values.

IWRM advocates an integrated cross-sectoral policy approach, enabling Myanmar to move away from the current fragmented, sector-by-sector and top–down approach, which has led to poor services and unsustainable resource use. IWRM is based on the understanding that water resources are an integral component of the ecosystem, a natural resource, and a social and economic good. Working through an inter-sectoral approach will build capacity, adaptability and resilience into the water management system for the future planning and development of Myanmar’s water resources.

There are five key steps that Myanmar needs to take to develop and implement an integrated water management plan. These are outlined in the diagram below.

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Figure 6 Integrated water resource management.

The future for Myanmar rests on building the appropriate institutions and passing legislation to enable the government to regulate and coordinate water resources in an integrated way, as well as ensuring sufficient finance and human resource capacity to implement change. Moreover, these institutions and laws need to recognise the particular cultural, economic, political and power dynamics of the country.

4.3.5 Flood management in Myanmar

4.5 What can you do to cut water use and wastage?