Non-governmental Organisations Major Group - 2nd World Water Forum

Background paper for the plenary 'GOVERNANCE & PARTICIPATION'

Duman Thapa

Mountain Resources Management Group, Nepal

This paper mainly draws on the research findings and experience of the Mountain Resources Management Group (MRMG) in the context of Nepal in respect of the four principal issues discussed by the main paper, that is:

How to manage for sustainability.
How to manage a catchment across administrative/political boundaries.
How to ensure stakeholders are involved.
How to achieve effective decision making.

The paper will by and large illustrate the case of the Rajapur Irrigation Rehabilitation Project (RIRP), an irrigation rehabilitation project, and the Rural Income Generation Project (RIGP), a poverty alleviation through income generation project, which also has drinking water and irrigation as main components.

Background of MRMG

The Mountain Resources Management Group or MRMG is a national, non-political, secular and independent non-governmental organization, established in 1993 with the mission of bringing about sustainable development of the rural communities in Nepal. MRMG aims to work for the sustainable development of the poorest of the poor among the rural communities in Nepal with participatory approach by using the local technology and indigenous resources and by facilitating the communities to build linkages with line agencies. MRMG's overall strategy is to incorporate the principles of people's participation, people-centredness, gender balance, environmental sustainability and empowerment of communities while addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor and marginalized rural communities.

Water as Focus of MRMG's Activities

MRMG has taken water as the major means of and tool for poverty alleviation in the rural areas of Nepal.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal is the world's second richest country in terms of water resources. This does not prevent water from being a scarce commodity in many parts of the country, which is mainly due to its overwhelmingly mountainous terrain. In Nepal, the priority order as fixed by the Water Resources Act of Nepal, 1992, for use of water laid down in the Water Resources Act of 1992 is as follows:

(1) drinking,

(2) irrigation,

(3) hydropower,

(4) industrial.

Water occupies a high and sacred place in the Hindu religion. Therefore, the religious use of water also sometimes competes with other uses, especially when it is scarce, and often always overrides the other uses in importance. Water is an economic commodity. However, in Nepal, it is hardly recognized so despite the fact that the Nepali woman on average spends two hours a day in fetching water from sources that may lie many kilometres away from her house. The reason is Nepal is predominantly a male-dominated society where the problems, issues, concerns and priorities of women are seldom considered.

Predominantly an agricultural country, over 80 per cent of Nepal's population is directly or indirectly dependent upon agriculture. So water for irrigation finds a top priority for a large number of people and often becomes the biggest bone of contention between villagers and between villages.

Before closing this cursory background on Nepal's water situation, it must be mentioned here that water is a commodity that is still to be harnessed, managed, developed and utilized to its capacity in Nepal.

Against this background, MRMG has taken water--often termed as Nepal's `white gold'--as one of the natural resources of the country that need proper management, development and utilization at the catchment and sub-catchment levels.

Rajapur Irrigation Rehabilitation Project (RIRP)

The Rajapur Irrigation Rehabilitation Project (RIRP), where MRMG is currently involved in the Process Documentation Research. The Project is an undertaking of the Department of Irrigation (DOI) with loan from Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the rehabilitation and improvement of the six farmer managed irrigation systems (FMISs) situated in the island of Rajapur, which is primarily of alluvial formation sandwiched between two big rivers, Geruwa and Karnali, in Bardiya District, Bheri Zone, Mid-Western Development region of Nepal. These six FMISs are almost a century old and cover an aggregate area of about 15,790 hectares (ha). After rehabilitation, the system will become the largest FMIS in Asia.

All the intakes are of the open channel type and ungated. Thus, floodwater can easily enter the canals during high river flows. Such events cause heavy damages to the irrigation structures, crops, properties, and even loss of human and animal lives. In order to increase the quantity of water that could be drawn from the river, the farmers have traditionally been building brush dams across branches of the rivers at the intake sites. These brush dams usually get destroyed after every heavy rainfall and the farmers have to repair/re-construct the dams at least two to four times during the monsoon season. The operation and maintenance (O&M) of the system is undertaken by the farmers themselves.

Due to the dwindling supply of forest products and the difficulties being encountered by the farmers in mobilizing the necessary local materials for the maintenance of their irrigation systems, the ADB, in early 1992, considered and approved the request of the Government for a loan assistance for the rehabilitation of Rajapur FMIS. The major objective of the project is to bring about sustainable economic development in the Project area by:
Increasing agricultural production and income.
Arresting the loss of irrigated land caused by river capture and river bank erosion.
Reducing environmental degradation through reduction of farmers' reliance on forest products for the repair of their irrigation systems. 
Strengthening the institutional base and technical capabilities of the existing farmers' association.
poverty reduction

The project is anchored on farmers' full and active participation in all phases of project implementation. The farmers have to contribute about 10 per cent of the cost of irrigation improvements in the form of either cash or kind (labour) or a combination thereof. In order to ensure farmers' participation, the design of the project included the establishment of a Project Management Committee (PMC), which is composed of ten members: three from the Department of Irrigation (DOI) and seven from the farmers. The PMC serves as the meeting platform and a forum for the project management and the farmers to reach consensus on all matters relating to the project. The Project Manager and the chairman of the Rajapur Water Users Association (RWUA) are the PMC chairman and vice chairman, respectively. Another important feature of the project is the signing of an agreement between the DOI and the farmers through the RWUA executive committee members prior to the start of the project preparatory activities. The agreement is basically an expression of the farmers' acceptance of the general scope of the project, their contribution of the construction cost and other commitment towards transparent implementation of the project.

MRMG has been engaged in the Process Documentation Research (PDR) of the implementation of the Project. regularly monitors and documents the processes and activities undertaken by the different project participants for the mobilization of effective participation of the local people in the utilization, management and control of the local resources with the ultimate objective of the overall development of the project. The PDR on RIRP focuses on the institutional processes undertaken by the project agency, the farmers and the consultants. Information and findings from such documentation are made available to the PMC and other participants of the rehabilitation project. This report tries to answer questions in the context of the RIRP such as: What are the types of activities and tasks undertaken by the project participants?; How are these activities undertaken?; What are the issues and problems that emerge from these activities?; What are the constraints being faced by the project participants?, etc. The PDR has so far brought up a number of issues that have emerged in the field and has also suggested solutions.

1. Managing for Sustainability

Sustainability of any water resource project is essential so that it is passed on undiminished in quantity and quality to other users and future generations. On the question of sustainable water management, the following passages in Moench, et al (1999) are worth mentioning. 'To project collaborators, the ways forwards, toward sustainable water management, requires action in three areas: 
Implementation and documentation of management initiatives, particularly ones involving participation by local populations and organizations as well as the government, to address specific water resource constraints;
Strengthening the basis for informed debate within civil society regarding water management needs and options; and
Beginning the process of reforming water related institutions and organizations away from development and into the types of structures needed to support the larger social process of management.

One of the major requirements for the sustainability of a development project is that the O&M of the project can be taken care of by the users/stakeholders themselves upon withdrawal of the project implementing and other support agencies, and necessarily includes financial sustainability. The sustainability of the project is, if not guaranteed, greatly enhanced if the participatory approach is followed in all phases of project implementation--from project conceptualization to designing, from construction to monitoring and evaluation, to sharing of benefits. It is necessary that the system be based on technology that is not unnecessarily too sophisticated or beyond the capacity of the users/stakeholders to understand and maintain.

While talking of sustainability of any project, we have so far mainly been referring to the technology and management aspects. However, gender has of late been emerging as an equally important factor for sustainability of any project, including irrigation projects. In the Nepalese context, women play a major role in the use and management of water resources. These uses include drinking water, washing of dishes, washing of clothes, bathing of children and cattle/livestock. In irrigation also, water is often applied in the field by women. Since irrigation water is used for multiple purposes by women, it is only natural that women be compulsorily involved in decision-making in all irrigation projects in all phases of project implementation. However, in Nepal, due to the male-dominated and patriarchal social structure, women are hardly involved in the development, implementation and management of irrigation projects. Because women do not have any right to ancestral/parental property (except under certain exceptional conditions), they do not own land (unless it is self-earned, which is rare), their participation in WUAs is minimal as membership of the WUA is contingent upon land ownership.

Further, in many communities women are barred from contributing labour in the construction and maintenance of irrigation canals because of the social restrictions on their mobility and interaction with non-family men, though they may be perfectly capable of undertaking such work. (In fact, in Nepal, women do as much hard physical labour inside and outside the house as men.) Instead, they are made to contribute in cash or kind in lieu of labour, whether or not their financial condition permits it. As a result, female-headed households are suffering economically also. It may be noted here that an increasing number of families in Nepal are becoming female-headed due to the migration of the male members of the family in search of employment to cities and towns within and outside the country.

His Majesty's Government of Nepal (HMGN) as well as donors and other governmental and non-governmental organizations have of late recognized the importance of addressing the gender concerns in the implementation of all development projects, especially in irrigation. Government policies have focused on the participation of women in development projects and legislation have been enacted to make compulsory provision for women's participation in various development projects. The Irrigation Policy also has provided for compulsory inclusion of women in the irrigation water users association.

However, government legislation and policies alone are not sufficient - it is more important to have awareness building and education of all users and stakeholders at all levels, including the grass roots women. While designing the development project, the issue of gender should not be tied up with the existing legal provisions (which are often used as a delaying tactics) but should be taken up by issue. For example, as mentioned earlier, the lack of property rights has hampered women from becoming members of water users associations. Therefore, what is required is, instead of waiting for reforms in the Land Reforms and other land related Acts, necessary provision should be made for compulsorily including women's participation in the development projects.

The above-mentioned issues had emerged during the discussions in the various workshops of water users' associations organized by MRMG. After a long process, MRMG has been successful in introducing in the Constitution of these WUAs provision for reserving 50 per cent of the membership of the WUAs for women. However, the next challenge is to how to motivate the women to actively and fully participate in the activities of the WUAs. MRMG and the national WUAs will be working to address this challenge in the coming years.

It is imperative that, to assume the O&M responsibilities of the system after handover of the system to the users, a water users' association (WUA) be formed. These WUAs are then legally registered. The system O&M capabilities of the users have to be built up by providing to the members of the WUAs various study/observation tours and training such as financial management, operation & maintenance, leadership development, resource mobilization, fund raising, etc. For ensuring financial sustainability of the project, development projects in Nepal have recently started adopting an integrated approach whereby savings and credit and income generation activities form important components so that the individual users' economic status are improved.

The earlier systems were effectively being operated, maintained and managed by the farmers for almost a century. The initial design of the rehabilitation project had sought to replace the old system with high technology engineering works that were well beyond the comprehension and capacity of the farmers to operate and maintain. However, since the rehabilitation project did provide for a people's participatory approach, the Central Farmers' Committee (CFC), which was created to represent the affected farmers' views and opinions, intervened to request the Project Office to change the engineer's designs to suit their needs and capacity, which was acceded to. Participatory approach enabled the different stakeholders of the project, such as the project implementing agencies, donors, design consultants, engineers, technical assistance team, institutional development team, to constantly and extensively interact with each other and understand and accommodate each others' point of view. This resulted in a much better design--one that was systemic, one that seriously considered the environmental impact of the project, one whose operation and maintenance was within the capacity and capability of the local users and, consequently, one that had almost all the elements of sustainability.

Now, the system has been designed and constructed in such a way that the local people themselves can carry out much of the O&M tasks of the RIRP by using local skills and technology and indigenous resources such as boulders found along river banks, tree trunks, tree branches, twigs, leaves, brushwood, etc that are collected from the nearby forests in a systematic manner. Permit has to be taken from the forest authorities to collect these forest products. Environment protection camps are organized by the Project Office for the local people and members of WUAs from time to time. Plantation has been undertaken along river and canal banks. RIRP was implemented only after it cleared the Environmental Impact Assessment study in accordance with His Majesty's Government of Nepal's (HMGN) policy for such projects. Environment protection, river training and anti-erosion measures are some of the essential components of project implementation. Gabion boxes are woven by the local people themselves, which has to some extent provided employment to the local people, thus contributing to income of the local people.

RIRP has been designed in such a way that it is sustainable in every way--financially, managerially and operationally. Only after ensuring the project's sustainability the Asian Development Bank invested in the project. In spite of being the largest FMIS in Asia, it has been designed in such a way that it can be operated and maintained by the users themselves without external assistance. In this respect, substantial modifications have been made wherever possible in the original project design to meet the farmers' capacity and capabilities. O&M training is also provided to the farmers on a periodic basis. In case any repair is beyond the capacity of the users, the farmers now know whom to approach.

Similarly, the users have been organized at different levels to manage the system. In Rajapur, several tiers of WUAs have been formed such as: (1) water course or tertiary level; (2) secondary level; (3) main canal level; (4) catchment or system or intake level (ie CFC). While forming these organizations, care has been taken to ensure that each of them has adequate and equitable representation of the smallest of landowning farmers as well as women. The capacity and capabilities of these organizations are being strengthened through various training and study/observation tour programmes for better system O&M. Some of these training programmes are: (1) General Management; (2) Financial Management; (3) Operation & Maintenance; (4) Leadership Development; (5) Networking; (6) Legal Rights. Each of these organizations has its own Constitution and rules and regulations and are registered as non-governmental organization under the Association Registration Act. The organizations of the water users are legally registered. To ensure financially sustainability, contributions are raised on the basis of cash, kind and labour. They also have their own bank accounts.

Rural Income Generation Project (RIRP), Arghakhanchi

In the case of the Rural Income Generation Project (RIRP), which is being implemented in Arghakhanchi district in Mid-western Nepal, WUAs have been formed for the construction, O&M of drinking water systems. The engineers and the users together design the system. They walk together, conduct the survey and decide questions such as: how many pipes need to be installed?; how much water is to be allocated to each household?; where will the central point of the water distribution system be located?, etc. The users contribute 50 per cent of the labour cost and raise Rs1,000 (approximately US$15) per tap for future maintenance of the system. Four people , including two women, from each WUA are given basic construction and management training, as part of their on-the-job training. All these measures ensure stakeholder's involvement in management and O&M of the system and development of a sense of ownership among the stakeholders/users.

MRMG's Experience

In Rajapur and in other districts, MRMG is facilitating formation of a federation of WUAs at the district level and eventually at the national level. Among others, one of its primary tasks will be to keep itself abreast with the changing but appropriate technology through information, knowledge and experience sharing. It will keep in touch with the Department of Irrigation's (DOI) research and technology development branch. The formation of networks and federations of WUAs will contribute to fulfilling all three of the preconditions for effective water management, as required by Moench, et al (1999):

systems that enable public access to key water resources information;
the location of administrative frameworks and processes for water management that enable widespread public involvement and give water users a clear role in decision making processes; and
the development of analytical and advocacy organization with public information mandates that are capable of addressing the socioeconomic dimensions of water management as well as the technical.

For ensuring sustainability, it is important that water is recognized as an economic good. Unfortunately in this part of the world, water is hardly recognized as an economic good, especially when it is in abundance and free-flowing. To do so, people must be educated and informed about the economic value of water and its multiple uses, which again calls for an integrated approach to management of water and development of comprehensive policy frameworks that address the needs of multiple users. This is where IEC (Information-Education-Communication) has to be applied. IEC is needed not only for the users and stakeholders but also for policy makers and decision makers.

2. Managing a catchment across borders and boundaries

There have not been any recorded cases of disputes over sharing of water along administrative or political boundaries in Nepal because water is shared on the basis of hydrological boundaries. However, disputes over water are common between two or more villages/hamlets or between upstream and downstream users. Disputes may also arise over ownership right to the water source. Disputes may also arise over the question of priority in the use of water--domestic, irrigation, industrial, hydropower, and others. Disputes over sharing of irrigation water, mainly between head-reach, middle-reach and tail-end users, are also common in Rajapur. In many instances, the farmers have successfully resolved their disputes on their own and in several other instances, after they failed to reach any agreeable solution, have taken the dispute to the Project Office, or to Village Development Committee (which is the lowest administrative unit in Nepal) level. A few cases were even taken to the police and the Courts.

The WUAs that have been formed at different levels also try to prevent and resolve such disputes. All the water users concerned are members of these organizations. Such associations or committees have ensured that the right to water of the downstream users is adequately recognized and there is equitable distribution of water among all users. Through the organization of the water users, the maintenance and upkeep of the intakes and the water sources are undertaken. A right of ownership of all the users over the water sources, including those of downstream, has been established. However, an 'enabling environment' has to be created for the federation or network of water users association to function in an effective manner.

Disputes between water sharing countries (or even between states in a federal nation) mostly take place over rivers which are large and perennial. In the South Asia region, Nepal shares the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna Basin with Bangladesh and India. There are some ongoing disputes over utilization and sharing of water of these major rivers, which originate in the High Himalayas and are perennial sources of water and hence a bone of contention between these three countries. For the same reason that water is perennial and in abundance in these rivers, there are no disputes or conflicts among the local people over the utilization and sharing of waters of these rivers. Disputes involving local people mostly take place over minor rivers, streams and rivulets that are seasonal and where water is scarce, that is those originating in the mid hills.

There have been instances in Nepal when the Government did not consult the local people, those living downstream, before implementing large scale hydro projects, e.g. Jhimruk Hydropower Project. Consequently, the local people were severely affected by water shortages. The implications are far-reaching in the case of drinking water and irrigation. It is very much manifested that river passing villages has very intimate relationship with the daily survival of the people. In such scenario, the question arises so as to understand the price and outcome of the development to the local people who are forced to leave the attachment with the river. It is very much rational to be concerned about the local people's control over the river, which has been viewed as their own fundamental property. Furthermore, the name of the region and the name of the river is the same.

The legal provisions of Nepal have categorically defined the use and right over such rivers. The Water Resources Act, 1992 and the Water Resources Regulations, 1993 of Nepal have, among others, the following main objectives:
Rational utilization, conservation, management and development of the water resources existing in the country.
Determining the beneficial uses of water resources, preventing environmental and other hazardous effects thereof and also for keeping the water resources free from pollution.

The Act provides that:

a. Except for certain uses and on certain conditions, licence is required for using water.

a) Formation of water users associations.

b) Prioritization of the uses of water resources.

c) Turning over of the water resources projects to the beneficiaries.

d) Security of water resources structures.

e) Prohibition on the pollution of water resources.

f) Grounds on which the licence may be cancelled.

g) Penalties of imprisonment and fines for the violation of the provisions of the Act.

The prevalent legal Acts of Nepal have also recognized the customary laws that have been practiced in the country for time immemorial. One of the important provisions recognizes the preceding right of the local people to the source of the water located in their area. It further requires that downstream users must seek the permission of the upstream users to draw water from such sources. If denied, they have no legal means.

Irrigation development considers only the river area and not the watershed area. This has led to creation of projects that are beset with many complications and problems, such as floods, land and river erosion and other environmental forms of degradation. For example, flood in Karnali occurs mainly due to landslides at upstream, mostly from the hills. Therefore, watershed management at upstream hill areas is required. This task it seems is the responsibility of the people living in that particularly area. Therefore, all irrigation development projects have to be an integrated package, that also takes into account protection of the watershed area and right over it.

The long-term sustainability of irrigation and drinking water schemes closely depends upon the management of the catchment area. Consider that there is minimal planning on watershed management despite large investment devoted to the utilization of the water yield, it is recommended that a co-coordinated watershed management be made in order to protect the investments and to ensure rational utilization of land and water resources.

Among others, water users associations have been designated as one of the authorities responsible for the implementation of the Water Resources Act. The other authorities also include district water resources committees and the Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources. Similarly, an officer has been appointed to determine whether water has been polluted or not.

3. Stakeholder involvement

Unless broad groups of stakeholders understand emerging problems and have an effective voice in the formulation of management approaches, solutions will not evolve, will be stymied by lack of support or will benefit only narrow elites. (Moench, et al, 1999) Involvement of stakeholders in water management initiatives and decentralization of delivery of water services will result in effective and sustainable management of water.

Nepal has a rich history of farmer managed irrigation systems (FMISs). Farmers have on their own built and have been operating and maintaining for centuries even large irrigation systems that irrigate thousands of hectares of land. Some of these systems exist even today. On the other hand, introduction of state intervention in the '50s and '60s of this century led to failure and collapse of these systems. Therefore, the government has adopted participatory way to irrigation management whereby irrigation systems are jointly built, operated, managed and maintained by the user farmers and government agencies. Several water users associations have been formed at the system level to implement these activities and the O&M as well as ownership of these systems are being handed over to the WUAs concerned. However, it has been felt that the formation of system level water users associations alone is not adequate for ensuring the rights of the users and that there is a need for formulating policies and plans at the national level that truly represent and answer users' ambitions and aspirations.

In Nepal, participatory approach is a new concept and implemented at the pressure of donors, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Although the government has emphasized participatory approach in various plans and programmes, it has not really been implemented in letter and in spirit. The reasons are not very far to seek. It is clear that emphasizing of participatory approach and issuing of directives alone are not sufficient. The implementing agencies, that is those staffing the government bureaucracy and technocrats too have to understand the real meaning and spirit of participatory approach. They have been used to the government bureaucracy and its inflexibilities for the past so many years that it will require an overhaul of the system to change the mindset of the bureaucrats and technocrats. It will require reorienting them to become people-centred. At the other end of the spectrum are the people who are uneducated, uninformed, unskilled and diffident. They are not even aware of their rights and the existence of policies and papers that empower them with certain decision making authority as regards projects that concern them. The people or the public are hardly bothered. This is where the role of the civil society, the NGOs and voluntary organizations come in.

Participation in an irrigation project in the Nepalese context would broadly have the following essential features:  
Decision-making from the stage of planning/feasibility study, design, implementation, etc.
Right to participate and decide on tender for consultants and contractors.
Supervision of construction, authority to insist on maintenance of quality, etc .
Right to be informed of changes, policies, etc.
Labour contribution and right to decide who, how much and methods, etc.
Participation in the irrigation management activities (the three main activities of irrigation, i.e. the physical system activities (maintenance, operation, construction, design) the water use activities (acquisition, allocation, distribution and drainage) and the organizational management activities (decision-making, resource mobilization, communication and conflict). (Uphoff, 1986)

Experience in Nepal has been that people's participation is limited to the time the project lasts. No effort is made to develop a permanent mechanism whereby people's participation in all development projects becomes necessary. Therefore, it is imperative that the government seriously considers developing an in-built mechanism to include people's participation in all development projects. At the same time, it must become receptive to criticisms against it. For example, in respect of PDR on RIRP also, the Department's reactions seem to be too defensive.

The RIRP is implemented with the active participation of the farmers concerned in all stages of project implementation, including the planning processes, made possible by creation of a Project Management Committee (PMC) comprising DOI project officials and representatives of the Central Farmers' Committee (CFC). All stakeholders, including local politicians, are involved in the project planning and development. Unlike in most other government projects, RIRP has provision for phase out of the implementing agency from the programme area with the gradual handover of the O&M and management of the system infrastructures to the beneficiary farmers. The beneficiary farmers are organized into WUAs and their capability for system O&M are constantly built up through training and tour methods. This is expected to ensure the sustainability of the project.

The CFC is a decision-making authority on behalf of the farmers and all decisions are taken in a participatory and democratic manner. Therefore, all decisions are based on general consensus. In this regard, leadership development training is also provided to the executive committee office-bearers of the CFC. The CFC sends its representatives to the PMC and so far they have shown that they have been effective in their role as a channel of communication and information between the various other stakeholders of the project and the beneficiary farmers as well as representatives of the farmers. Through their representation in the PMC, the farmers have raised many issues concerning them and have even been able to change the original design of the project.

The local water users themselves have been given an effective representation in the PMC through the CFC. The water legislation of Nepal has given recognition to customary laws related to the water of the local people. This has given due importance to the traditional laws, customs, norms and practices of the local people. In RIRP also, the traditional water rights have been well-recognized. The traditional farmers organizations have not been disturbed and are in fact existing side-by-side and in harmony with the modern water users committees. The role of the Kulopani Chaudharys (An irrigation office-bearer in traditional WUAs whose main responsibility is to manage the O&M of the Kulo) in water management and dispute resolution has been found to be very effective at the local level.

4. Effective decision making

RIRP structure has provided for effective decision making. However, decision-making to be really effective, interaction at different levels is necessary. For example, members of the PMC are elected by the real farmers. Involvement of the poorest of the poor and the smallest of the small landholders and users/stakeholders results in more effective decision making. Women's role in decision making in every project where they are likely to be affected is imperative. However, in most irrigation projects, their representation is either nil or negligible. Due to social norms, their role becomes secondary as their speech and mobility are restricted in a male dominated society. They are barred from participating in training and tour programmes. Whereas the women are multiple users of water, including irrigation water.

MRMG's focus is on organizational development and institutional capacity building of farmers' organizations at various levels for effective decision making. MRMG is facilitating formation of national and district-based networks of WUAs so that a two-way communication channel is formed. The network will act as a conduit for disseminating the latest information regarding developments and technologies in the area of water resources. It will represent the farmers' interests in policy and decision making at the nation's highest level and will also lobby for protecting their interests and rights. Initiative has already begun in this direction. A few district-based federations of WUAs have been formed. It is providing capacity building and skill training to these farmers' organizations in various areas. These networks are also being used for providing various support services to the farmers.

Effective decision-making also presupposes and necessitates a system or systems that enable and facilitates public access to key water resources information. The PDR on RIRP has been found to be an important tool in documenting and disseminating the emergent issues and problems confronting a development project that has several sets of stakeholders and that is being implemented with extensive people's participation. More importantly, it has also helped in addressing these problems--by facilitating interactions and dialogue among these different sets of stakeholders and often the people themselves have found solutions to what are their own problems. The formation of CFC and its representation in the PMC have ensured adequate representation and involvement of the farmers in a project that concerns them. It has also ensured that the water users do become capable and acquire confidence to decide for themselves where their interests are involved; to strongly voice their opinions and advocate for their interests. Involvement of stakeholders ensures long-term sustainability of the project, operationally, managerially, and financially.