Integrated Water Resources Management “Learning by Doing” at Meikhtila Lake
Interview with Luuk Brinkman, Project Manager at Royal HaskoningDHV
For a long time, in a lullaby song, Meikhtila Lake was given its worthy tribute by authors in different periods of Myanmar literary history in all forms of prose, verse and drama. Meikhtila Lake was highlighted as The Lake Filled with Nature.
Nowadays, over 300,000 inhabitants in the Meikhtila watershed are dependent on the availability of clean and sufficient water. As the population grows, the economy develops and the climate changes it becomes increasingly important to guarantee good management of this resource.
Insights about Meikhtila Lake Project
We are talking to Luuk Brinkman from international engineering consultancy company Royal HaskoningDHV. Between May 2016 and May 2017, Luuk was the delegated project manager of the Meikhtila Lake Integrated Development Plan (MLIDP), one of the 'learning-by-doing' projects initiated and funded by the government of the Netherlands. Together with experts from Cordaid and Deltares, Luuk and his team supported Myanmar government officials from different ministries and municipalities to develop their own Integrated Development Plan for Meikhtila Lake.
As Luuk explains, the project had three goals:
(1) Create a complete description of the water system;
(2) Establish a joint understanding of the problems and causes;
(3) Explore possible solutions and ranking of these solutions (short/long term).
Beyond the process towards a more sustainable water system for Meikhtila Lake, it also aims to provide an extensive overview of the stakeholders and existing policies relevant for Meikhtila Lake area. Additionally, a broad analysis of the socio-economic and physic-geographical situation leads to further understanding of the water system.
The project involved government stakeholders at two levels: (1) at the township and district level and (2) at the regional and union level. At the township and district level, the understanding of the system and potential solutions to challenges faced were developed, while at the regional and national level, guidance on policies and an integrated approach was provided.
Often, local governmental departments do not get the opportunity to look at long term solutions in cooperation with other departments, because of the urgency to deal with short term problems, so for many participants this was a new experience. As a result of this, Luuk Brinkman explains in the interview, the project surfaced many new insights and learning opportunities: "To give an example: the clearing of solid waste from urban drains involved several different government departments, each with their own specific responsibilities. Their cooperation in the project was critical in bringing everything together to develop the right solutions. It was a real success to see how everyone recognized this and worked together."
Apart from delivering a very comprehensive development plan for Meikhtila Lake, Luuk notes that a very important result was the creation of a district-level working group with representatives from various stakeholders: the MLIDP Implementation Committee (MLIDP-IC). This was really a bottom-up process with strong local ownership. People in the committee are very committed and really see the benefits of working together across institutional boundaries.
The formation of this MLIDP Implementation Committee (MLIDP-IC) is a good temporary solution and one that fits the local conditions. At the national level a framework for organizing Integrated Water Management is being developed through the National Water Policy (NWP) and projects such as the MLIDP can help to guide such policy developments.
Right now, the MLIDP-IC needs to be formally established by the Mandalay Region Government and needs to operate at both the township and district level.This process is currently underway. The NWRC, the Chief Minister of Mandalay Region and the MLIDP Management Committee all expressed their support for the package of measures identified in the MLIDP. However, implementation of these measures needs to follow standard government planning and budgeting procedures when not carried out by donors or private parties.
Development of the Myanmar water sector
Based on his experiences in Myanmar, Luuk sees some key opportunities for the Myanmar water sector to develop towards a more integrated way of working. Firstly, a lot of local leadership from persons who can recognize challenges, find necessary solutions, and implement them together with other stakeholders is already present. This can form the basis for training local 'champions' who can take the lead in an integrated way of working. Furthermore, proactive disclosure and sharing of information is essential, but we need to be selective when collecting data by setting priorities based on the problems.
Here you can check out the document: Executive Summary of Meikhtila Lake Integrated Development Plan