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| his article emphasizes the .need successive governments while serving the eco­ national programmes for river bank protection
for management of the water nomic and social development objectives of the and enrichment and most of the large and small
. resources to achieve the objectives of country have paid minimum attention to a holistic water bodies are being affected due to the lack
alnabfe use of the finite volume of water view ofthe water resources management for sus­ of a policy and regulatory framework for plan­
resources made available through precipitation tainable use ofthe resource, both in terms of quan- ning and management of land and water utili­
of rainwater. It also summarizes some of the . titative and qualitative aspects. As a result, shar­ zation.
key issues identified in the areas of water re­ ing of the resource for different uses has been
sources management in terms of policy, legis­ carried out on a first comefirstserved basis. There There have been major development
lation, information and institutional requirements is also ho linkage that has been maintained to en­ programmes of water sources for different uses
and the approaches that have been initiated for sure a balanced development of upstream and at various locations along a given source such
comprehensive management of the water re­ downstream uses ofthe natural resources. asriversystem. The results are sometimes det­
sources in Sri Lanka, through the implementa­ rimental and unfavourable to downstream wa­
tion of two projects. Lack of planning and development at river ter users, arising from frequent shortages and
basin level poor quality levels of the return flows. The ad
Water Resources Data hoc nature of development arising from poor
Planning for water resources development at river coordination among developers has caused se­
Sri Lanka has 103riverbasinswith the Mahaweli basin level has not been practiced and as a result vere implications for existing water users who
basin dominating in size (16 per cent of the the following problems has arisen: are dependent on the same source. The mix of
island's total area or 10,327 Seventeen - lack of a water allocation policy leading to se­ uses have also created problems of availability
river basins account for sizes more than 1,000 vere competition, disparities in investment at required times ofthe year as well as during Around 14 basins are of sizes ranging portfolios in the water sub-sectors as well as the day. With urbanization the large reservoirs
from 400-950 while 45 river basins are other economic entities, that have been exdusively developed for irri-
of sizes less than 100 ^ gated agricultural pur­ Most of these small poses are now being
basins are confined within
provincial boundaries and
Comprehensive Water Resources used for provision of
doOemstic water supply to
are located near the coastal
belt. (Please see the map of
Management in Sri Lanka towns. The beneficiary
farmers of these reser­
voirs have thus been de­
Sri Lanka). The annual rain­
fall amounts to an average
P.S.M. Muthukuda prived of their quota of
of 127 to 132 million cubic Consultant, Water Resources Secretariat water, while the water

meters of water. In the wet supply projects are com­

zone, around 60 percent ofthe rainfall becomes • Lack of co-ordination among the developers/ pelled to move upstream adding costs that af­
run off while in the dry zone, it has varied from state agendesresponsiblefor provision of ser­ fect their viability.
35%-40%. vices in water resources, addressing manage­
ment measures. Water allocation Issues
Although Sri Lanka has an overall average pre­ • Poor institutional arrangement for manage­
cipitation of more than 2,000 mm per year, the ment of the water resources at national, pro­ The water resources management issues have
monsoon climate and national geography cre­ vincial and basin level arising from policy gaps been identified in the subject areas of water
ate substantial variability in the amount of wa­ and overlapping of functions as well as lack allocation arising from increased competition for
ter that is available both locally and temporally. of authority for agendes to manage the wa­ water for the above uses, mainly for irrigation
ter resources at source level, vs. hydropower vs. water supply for domestic
The data on water resources in terms of quan­ • Poor implementation of regulations pertain­ and industrial uses. There is very little informa­
tity and quality relating to surface and ground ing to natural resource management, and tion available on specific allocation of water for
water are scattered over several agencies and - Lack of awareness, consultation and involve­ other uses, such as inland fisheries, environ­
mostly such data are not available in the form ment among all stakeholders in water issues mental and soda) needs. These uses have be­
of processed information on regular basis, In in planning and management of the natural come increasingly important in the light of poor
the case of water information there is a diffi­ resources. quality and quantity of water that is received
culty in ready accessibility as many agencies downstream and towards the river mouth. In
are held responsible for maintaining records or The possibilities of introdudng water resources the absence of suitable criteria and appropri­
water resources data. The level of utilizationof management measures atriverbasin level are be­ ate methods for water allocation, there have
water resources information for management ing actively studied under the two projects namely been instances of conflicts among major water
purposes has also been limited due to factors the institutional strengthening for Comprehensive users and managers catering to multiple uses.
relating to reliability, regularity and timeliness etc. Water Resources Management and Water Law
in the collection and processing of data. There and Policy Advisory Programme while exploring Issues relating to demand management
is also no co-ordination mechanism in place for different options for policies on river basin ap­
sharing of data and information on a regular proaches for water resources management. Demand management initiatives in the water
basis. Hence a policy for management of sector have been considered as a tool for con­
the water resources information systems along Issues relating to water supply sources and servation of water resources while increasing
with an institutional mechanism for sharing of uses the productivity of the water units by redudng
data- and access to information has become the current level of water use for future con­
important. The diverse climatic conditions, mainly rainfall pat­ sumption. The demand management policies
terns prevailing in the wet, intermediate and dry are limited to tariffs in the domestic water sup­
zones of the country has shown uncertainties in ply sub-sector while other measures are hardly
Development of water resources
Unavailability of water in terms of quantity and applied. The activities concerning demand man­
quality for various uses at different times of need. agement include charges for provision of wa­
The development of water resources particu­ ter services, issue of licenses and permits for
larly to meet irrigation, hydro-powerand domes­ The inherent nature of the terrain of the lands and
soil structure, coupled with different types of land water use rights for different purposes, and
tic water supply needs has been carried out for regulatory conditions for extraction of surface
long years in isolation thus creating a tremen­ uses, degradation of lands in upper watersheds
have resulted in high sedimentation rates threat­ arid groundwater, beyond a certain limit along
dous pressure on common water sources a river system or in an aquifer. Technology
along the rivers, streams and tributaries. The ening sustenance of the reservoirs. There are no

Economic R e v i e w A p r i l / M a y 2 0 0 0 25
' development and transfer programmes have induding the river systems. Development and man­ implementation activities, and promotion of
also been considered as important tools to re­ agement of the reservoirs and some of the water water resources management functions is be­
duce water consumption in the agricultural and bodies identified for specific purposes have been ing considered under the two projects, which
other water consumption systems which are entrusted to the respective agencies, which are are being directed by the Water Resources
employed in industrial and domestic water sub- catering to different sub-sectors such as irriga­ Coundl.
sectors. tion, hydropower, water supply and agriculture.
Management of some of the major and medium Legislative Issues In the water sector
In the absence of a proper right of access to sized irrigation reservoirs and minor tanks/anicut
water resources, in terms of a guaranteed schemes have been entrusted to the Project Man­ The legislative framework for management of
quantity and quality worked out on the basis of agement Committees established with private and surface water resources is at present scattered
availability of water in a given source area, public sector participation, with shared responsi­ over several legal enactments. Some of the pro­
people are reluctant to invest in the production bilities. Some of the large reservoirs serving multi­ visions have been made in land related legisla­
| of goods and services. Hence security of ac­ purpose objectives areaj^rrtanac^bytiieagen- tion such as State Lands Ordinance. Although
cess for water need to be ensured by providing cies such as the Ceylon Electricity Board, Irriga­ the majority of the water bodies are state
legal rights to water especially where there are tion Department, Water Supply and Drainage owned, there are few privately owned inland
water shortages and heavy competition. Intro- Board and the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka. water bodies located within private lands. The
i ductjon of pre-deterrnined standards for differ- access for water for those living adjacent to
I ent uses in terms of types of agricultural crops, It has been noted that the above institutions are rivers are provided underriparianrights but
! domestic consumption, industry requirements, also falling into the category of water users when quantities are limited to individual consumption
minimumflowsfor environmental conservation they function as service delivery agencies, playing for domestic and other uses such as agricul­
etc. during periods of scarcity would be essen­ a dual role at the same time. There is no inte­ tural production for non-commercial purposes
tial if demand management parameters are to grated approach to water resources management by taking water manually in buckets. In order
I be practiced. An appropriate research agenda or a system of separation of authority for man­ to discharge their responsibilities in the devel­
j may be required for the above activities. agement of the resources from development and opment and management of water infrastruc­
service delivery functions, leading to a lack of trans­ ture, the National Water Supply and Drainage
| Management Objectives parency. There is also no legally empowered au­ Board (NWS & DB), Ceylon Electricity Board
thority or agency to allocate water for different (CEB), Irrigation Department (ID), Agrarian
I Considering the above issues that need to be water management bodies although; the Irriga­ Services Department (ASD), Mahaweli Author­
j resolved, improvements to water use efficiency tion Department in certain critical situations cur­ ity of Sri Lanka (MASL), Municipalities and Lo­
{ in terms of productivity of water use and effec­ rently undertakes such a responsibility. In addi­ cal Authorities have bee provided with access
tiveness in achieving optimum benefits to the tion, the above agencies have been empowered to surface water bodies under their respective
users on a sustainable basis has been consid­ by their respective Acts to have access to waters Acts and Ordinances. There is no legislation
ered imperative. These objectives are to be in any water body to service the objectives of the for management of groundwater resources of
achieved through the introduction of manage­ state and the community, in generation of hydro- the country.
ment measures particularly in instances of both power, irrigation farilities, to meet domestic and
water deficit and surplus situation in order to industry water supply needs. Water uses for irrigation purposes are expressly
meet following objectives: exempted from permit requirements by the
The current arrangements that have been made State Lands Ordinance. The NWS & DB and
• maintain an equitable distribution of the wa­ for independent agencies to have access to wa­ the CEB are not subject to license require­
ter resource among the users, ter bodies including river systems have created ments, although they use water for producing
• improve quality levels of the water for cur­ problems of equitable distribution of water among the supplying drinking water and generating and
rent and potential diverse uses, different users, that has led to critical issues re­ distributing electricity, respectively. The
• promote water sector investments both by lating to allocation of water among the subpectoral Mahaweli reservoirs are catering to multiple
public and private sectors in water infra­ users. The existing water related agencies are uses such as generation of hydropower as well
structure and service deliveries, including more or less involved in construction and man­ as for irrigation of command areas, while pro­
allocations for environmental concerns, agement of water infrastructure to meet the needs viding for water supply sub-sectoral needs.
• justify long term investments in other pro­ of different users while some of the important as­ However, no consideration for requirements of
ductive sectors such as industry, agricul­ pects of water resources management functions inlandfisheriesand in-stream uses has been
ture, agro-processing, commercial/service are completely neglected. There is also no proper identified in the process of allocation. In addi­
sectors, aquaculture, etc., coordination mechanism established to resolve tion, there is no provision in the MASL Act for
• develop and implement regional plans at some of the competing issues among the major long term planning for water resources uses,
river basin level that would enhance pro­ water agencies, which may require guiding prin­ while it caters only for real time water alloca­
tection of water sources, other physical ciples to support rational decision making pro­ tions. In addition, there is no co-ordination be­
structures for sotial and economic func­ cesses. The need for an independent agency to tween these institutions and the Central Envi­
tions, other natural resources while ensur­ allocate water for different sub-sectoral uses, co­ ronmental Authority (CEA), which is respon­
ing equitable sharing of water resources, ordination of national water policy formulation and sible for licensing wastewater discharges, so
and that in several cases, industries discharge
• ensure sustainable use of both surface and waste into water bodies used for drinking and
groundwater resources. irrigation purposes.
Institutional Issues The government has adopted a partidpatory
management policy in managing the water in
Responsibility for management of the water re­ the irrigation reservoirs sharing responsibility
sources is scattered over different agencies ppi for operation and maintenance with the major
such as provincial/district/divisional administra­ user groups such as Farmer Organizations es­
tion, in case ofriversthat flow entirely within tablished atfieldchannel, distributor/ canals
provinces while rivers that flow across inter- 0 H'V J and project level. These policies are governed
provincial boundaries are the responsibility of by the amendments that have been made re­
the central government. There is no single cently to the Agrarian Service Act. There is pro­
agency that has been entrusted with the re­ Water in Plenty vision in this Act, to transfer the management
sponsibility of managing the water resources of the medium and large reservoirs to Project
26 Economic Review April / May 2000
Management Committees established at project Approaches for comprehensive management of Organisational Arrangements
level consisting of members selected from the the water resources have been considered through
public and private sectors. Legal provisions re­ the implementation of the two projects with the A Water Resources Council and a Water Re­
lating to Farmers' Organizations (Fos) are scat­ assistance of the Asian Development Bank and source Secretariat have been established to
tered in the Irrigation Ordinance, the changes the FAO/Netherlands. Some of the salient fea­ implement the two projects and for consulta­
brought about the Thirteenth Amendment to the tures of the main components of the projects in­ tion purposes. The Council is responsible for
Constitution with respect to the devolution of clude a national water policy, national water legis­ the implementation of the projects, co-ordina­
certain irrigation management functions to the lation, institutional development and information tion of inter-sectoral and intra-sectoral issues
Provincial Councils. Rights to water users in system development relating to water resources management, and
the form of groups or individuals to have ac­ for providing direction and guidance. A perma­
cess to water have not been granted under the National Water Policy nent institutional arrangement with legal pow­
Act. ers will be evolved through a consultative ap­
A co-ordinated national water policy setting out a proach as a component of the Action Plan.
The lack of will to enforce certain regulations broad strategic direction will be the basis for leg­
relating to watershed management viz. Soil islative development and for a number ofthe other Water Resources Secretariat
Conservation Act has created problems aris­ components of the project. It will be developed as
ing from severe soil erosion, leading to heavy a framework within which further additions and A Water Resources Secretariat (WRS) has
siltation. Some ofthe minor tanks have become refinements can be made. been established under the Ministry of Finance
unusable to a great extent, due to poor main­ and Planning administratively attached to the
tenance affecting the agricultural production A review of current water and water-related poli­ National Planning Department to support the
programmes. Private investors of thermal power cies had identified a number of broad "cross cut­ work of the WRC and to carry out day-to-day
plants have been uncertain about the agency ting" issues. The topics which will be addressed activities in the implementation of the Action
that is responsible for extraction of surface initially through in-depth analysis will be: Water Plan.
water for cooling purposes. In the absence of allocation, demand management and water rights.
a legal authority for allocation of water for dif­ Expected Outputs from the Projects
ferent uses, the industrial development activi­ National Water Legislation
ties have been affected. The following outputs/achievements are envis­
This component of the project is undertaken by aged from these two projects:
Any individual can have access to groundwa­ the Netherlands/FAO funded project "Inter-re­
ter resources within the land for which he can gional Water Law and Policy Advisory Programme" A national policy for comprehensive water re­
claim ownership or on permits issued under the supported by the WRS and the working group on sources management encompassing water al­
Land Development Ordinance irrespective of water legislation. The objective is to consolidate location principles among sub sectors, water
whether it can cause adverse impacts on the existing water related legislation and to produce a rights, demand management principles, and
adjoiningland or adjacent area. In most ofthe water code that will allow government to perform river basin planning approaches etc. recommen­
dry-zone and intermediate zone areas, govern­ water resources management functions effectively. dations for improved information systems for
ment promotes construction of agro-wells for Legislation will be introduced to address the imple­ water sector encompassing public and private
commercial agriculture without concern to en­ mentation of new national policy measures. sector information needs and strategies for
vironmental or social factors thus affecting the management and dissemination of information,
equitable consideration in the sharing of ground­ Institutional Development focussing mainly on information needs for new
water resources. The consolidation of water policy development, planning and policy imple­
related legislation and the incorporation of new The following are some of the tentative institu­ mentation: a water code encompassing intro­
legislation required for the implementation of tional development issues that are expected to be duction of new legislation through consolida­
the national water policies would be a pre-req- addressed in this component of the ISCWRM tion of existing water related legislation with
uisite for comprehensive water resources man­ project. provision for public awareness for effective
agement in the country. Definition of water sector functions in terms management of the water resources; recom­
of water resource management and service mendations for improvements in the institutional
deliveries mechanism for comprehensive water resources
Initiative for Comprehensive Water Permanent institutional mechanism to perform management, including a permanent institu­
Resources Management comprehensive water resource management tional framework for co-ordination and manage­
functions ment of water resources, and developed skills
At present there is no comprehensive policy for Agency planning and performance criteria for comprehensive water resources manage­
management of surface and ground water in Data and information management in the wa­ ment, through capacity building programs.
Sri Lanka. Water is managed as an input to a ter sector
number of major national sub-sectors such as Human resource training and development
irrigation, hydropower production, inland fish­
eries, domestic and industrial water supply, but
with little co-ordination among the sub-sectors.
Further, water requirements for environmental
management has not been recognised as an
important element in the allocation policies. No

mechanism exists to address common policy
issues. There is therefore a need for a
mechanism for joint planning among line agen­
cies to address the competing demands and
linkages within the water sector. Planning and
policy development should be earned out in a
manner, which is neutral and technically com­
petent and in which recognises important na­
tional objectives.

Kotmale Dam / Reservoir for power generation

Economic Review April / May 2000 27