Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Asia – Model Region Mongolia (MoMo)

In the MoMo project, researchers at DIE analysed the transformation of water governance in Mongolia against the backdrop of increasing water quantity and quality problems caused by a rapidly expanding mining sector. They examined the changing legal and institutional conditions of water governance and their effects on the implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). The team also advised different actors of the Mongolian water sector.

Project Lead:
Ines Dombrowsky

Prof. Dr. Dietrich Borchardt, Umweltforschungszentrum Leipzig

Project description

The Mongolian water sector currently faces great challenges linked to the rapid development of the mining sector, the expansion of livestock farming, increasing urbanisation and the impact of climate change. In order to respond to mounting problems of water pollution, insufficient availability of the resource and ever increasing water demand, the country adopted the approach of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in2004. The approach aims at improving the coordination of water demand from different sectors and regions and at creating river basin organisations to manage the resource.

The MoMo project consisted of 60 German and Mongolian scientists who analysed the conditions for the implementation of IWRM and who advised Mongolian institutions in this process from a natural and social sciences’ perspectives. In the Kharaa river basin in the Northeast of the country, the team researches changed in hydrology, land use, water ecology and water quality. Moreover, several pilot projects for waste water treatment and reuse as well as sanitation systems were being implemented. The project also supported environmental education at schools and an IWRM master course at the university.

Within this project, DIE researchers were responsible for the work package on governance. They focused mainly on the analysis of the highly dynamic legal and institutional conditions for IWRM and their effectiveness for the implementation of this approach, as well as on policy advice for the ministry in charge and a recently established river basin organisation in the Kharaa river basin.

Between 2008 and 2010, the team analysed the challenges of coordinating water governance between different water use sectors and administrative levels in the country and based on Oran Young’s „ fit and interplay“approach. Besides lacking clarity on legal issues and concurrent interests of different parties, the incomplete decentralisation of the country was identified as an important factor hampering effective water governance and the implementation of IWRM. In this context, they also analysed the introduction of the first Mongolian river basin council in the Khovd basin. The study revealed that the council’s scope of action was significantly restricted due to uncertainties concerning its mandate, the membership in the council, its legal structure and its financial conditions.

Since 2010, research of the governance team has focused on the latest reforms of the Mongolian water sector. The new water law adopted in 2012 provides for the introduction of river basin administrations - next to the existing river basin councils- under the authority of the ministry in charge of the environment. The implementation of political decentralisation has been accelerated since the adoption of a new budget law which potentially also makes more financial resources available for environmental protection at local levels. The team analysed these reforms based on institutional analysis approaches by Elinor Ostrom and using the theoretical concept of “politics of scale”. Through their contribution to publications and scientific events, the work of the governance team is also embedded into international debates on the design and implementation of IWRM and river basin management.