Institutional pathways for transforming groundwater planning and management: Reflections from Pakistan and Sri Lanka

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The growing issues with groundwater quality and quantity worldwide are particularly impacting regions of South Asia, where groundwater use plays a crucial role in human well-being. As the severity of the situation becomes clearer, there are increasing calls for transformation in water management. In this paper, we consider institutional influences on transforming groundwater management by reflecting on our recent collaborative research in Pakistan and a scoping study in Sri Lanka. In Pakistan, we have shown that it is possible for previously “siloed” stakeholders to develop shared understandings of the groundwater situation and build useful and enduring practice networks. Such shared understandings can support collaborative planning, but must be informed by effective monitoring and modeling, and an institutional willingness to think beyond traditional formal regulatory tools. Regional and local scale planning could encourage interactive processes for broader thinking. Given the similarity in the human-groundwater situation between parts of Pakistan and Northern Sri Lanka, we undertook a small study to see if similar collaborative research would be valuable there. Our brief visit confirmed commonalities in the situation. By reflecting on our experience in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, we make a case for encouraging and embracing collaborative research as part of transforming water resources management. Our approach emphasizes the important contributions of both water managers and users and encourages ways of integrating paradigms, knowledge, norms, and practices. Establishing genuine co-inquiry among groundwater managers and users requires a deeper appreciation of the constraining and enabling roles established institutions can play and thus ultimately a transformation in institutional arrangements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-501
Number of pages21
JournalWorld Water policy
Issue number3
Early online dateJul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


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