Stakeholder led Integrated Water Resources Management in the Mahanadi Delta, Orissa, India

In the Mahanadi Delta, Wetlands International works to making wetlands a critical part of the implementation of water policies by Orissa State government. This means providing the government with the necessary systematic information on wetland ecosystem services and actively engaging in the development of policies. Aim is to make wetland ecosystem services the key components of developing food and water security, as well as adaptation to climate change in the Delta.

Policy background

The Orissa State Water Policy (2007) mandates that river basins must be considered as a whole. Furthermore, considering the high ecological fragility of the state, it places ecological demands of water as second in priority in overall water allocation. The Orissa Pani Panchayat Act (2002) also makes sure that farmers participate in the management of irrigation infrastructure.


Ineffective water management

The state government has undertaken several policy measures for promoting Integrated Water Resources Management as a basis for planning. Nevertheless, its implementation remains largely ineffective and focused on agriculture and domestic water supply. Most significantly, they do not address values and functions of wetlands, although the Delta contains many.

Furthermore, there is no real connection with local effects of those decisions made at the higher basin scales. In particular, there is very limited reflection of local values and integrated approaches in planning and decision making. Therefore, wetland management remains as a completely distinct sector without linkages with basin level planning.

Lack of knowledge and participation

Despite much of water and ecosystem management being undertaken at community levels, the role of farmer participation in irrigation management (Pani Panchayats) remains confined to minor irrigation infrastructure management. Above all, a serious lack exists of any systematic information source on the functions and potential of the Delta’s different ecosystems, particularly how the Delta’s wetlands can act to reduce the impacts of climate change. This has reinforced focus on already implemented unsustainable engineering approaches.

What we do to counter these problems

As a solution to these problems, Wetlands International works to provide the government with the necessary systematic information on how the Delta’s wetland ecosystems work. Through this knowledge base on the ecosystem services an integrated approach for water resource management in the delta will be developed by involving community organisations.