Can institutions be designed? : analysing the challenges to implementation of IWRM in Kyrgyzstan from post-institutional perspective
Abstract: The concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) was developed in response to the growing concerns over water use worldwide. In Kyrgyzstan environmental changes, glacial melt, a growing population and increasing industrial needs for water call for the development of sustainable ways of water use. Water governance in Kyrgyzstan has undergone radical institutional redesign since the country gained its independence in 1991. Centrally driven water organizations were replaced by a locally governed institution of Water Users Associations (WUA) across much of the country. The operation of WUAs was to be funded through irrigation service fees levied from water users. The progress of implementing such reforms in the water sector has however been limited. In order to understand the challenges faced during the reforms this study is based on a case study in the village of Arka situated in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. It focuses on the qualitative study of local level water management. With an aim of bringing historical and cultural factors into the discussion of institutional development, the study draws on the concept of institutional bricolage. The study results demonstrate that the existing institutional arrangement incorporates elements of previous institutions along with the new concepts introduced through reforms. Thus interactions in water management today are equally influenced by the new WUA policies, such as payment of water fees, as well as the long-standing institutions of kinship and respecting of elders and authorities. Because the prevailing understanding of WUA as a government structure contradicts the new notion of ‘participation’, people seem to tend towards familiar ways of organization. Moreover new institutions have a risk of reinforcing existing power patterns and inequity in communities. Therefore the study concludes that any institutional interventions should be preceded by research of the existing institutional setup in water management. Building on existing successful experiences of collective action in communities is suggested as an effective way of institutional development in water governance.
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