Bringing back the common sense? Integrated approaches in water management: Lessons learnt from the Mekong

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    Water management is changing: the narrowly defined management practices that have for long been dominating are being replaced by more comprehensive approaches. Integrated approaches -including the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)-represent the forerunners of this change, and they are thus loaded with expectations. The reality is, however, more complicated, with many of the integrated processes failing to live up to their promises. This Thesis looks at integrated approaches used in water management and impact assessment, with a focus on the transboundary Mekong River Basin and the related Tonle Sap Lake area in Cambodia. The seven appended articles discuss an array of water management and assessment contexts in the region, sharing practical experiences on the use of integrated approaches. The synthesis places the current integrationist drive into the broader context through an analysis of the development of integrated approaches as well as through a review of multi-disciplinary research approaches. Despite their emphasis on integration between different sectors and disciplines, integrated water management approaches are found to have surprisingly weak linkages with similar approaches in the other fields. In terms of the actual implementation of integrated water management, the Thesis recognises six key elements to be particularly critical: Comprehensiveness, Institutions, Politics, Methods, Team and Inclusiveness. Experiences from the Mekong on all these elements are summarised, and their significance and contribution to the practices of integrated water management is described. The Thesis concludes by noting that while the current integrated water management practices are often strong on practical integration methods, they at the same time partly neglect the broader philosophical and contextual aspects related to integration. Yet, since integrated management always involves a range of actors with their intricate interconnections, integration is not just a mechanical procedure, but very much a personal and political issue as well. What really matters are therefore not only the technical methods for integration, but also the ways the management and research teams in specific management contexts communicate, collaborate and interact with their various stakeholders as well as -an issue that is frequently forgotten- internally within their teams.
    Translated title of the contributionBringing back the common sense? : integrated approaches in water management : lessons learnt from the Mekong
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Varis, Olli, Supervising Professor
    Print ISBNs978-952-60-3233-7
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-3234-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • integration
    • integrated water management
    • impact assessment
    • Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)
    • multi-disciplinarity
    • transboundary river basin
    • Mekong
    • Tonle Sap


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