Towards a more sustainable water future: water governance and Sustainable Development Goal 6 achievability in India
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Humans and the environment in which we live are deeply connected to one another. These interconnections allow for many positive benefits and are foundational to our ability to live on Earth, but also pose many challenges. These challenges are often complex and can lead to negative effects on humans and the environment alike, especially under the pressures of multiple drivers, including climate change. The United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address many of these complex problems through global, regional, and local action. The connection between water resources and humanity – and the resulting challenges – is a potent example of problems the SDGs aim to confront. Particularly, SDG 6 seeks to ensure sustainable access to clean water and sanitation for all, with targets for water quality, efficiency, management, cooperation, capacity building, and ecosystem health. While the SDG 6 vision and targets are admirable, little is known about how to enhance the achievability of this goal, especially considering sustained efforts to address water challenges around the world. Particularly, it is unclear if pre-existing water governance mechanisms, such as institutions, policies, rules, and practices will be able to facilitate SDG 6 achievement. In order to better understand how those involved in water governance can help enhance the achievability of SDG 6 at multiple scales, a study using qualitative research methods was performed using India as a case study. This included interviews and focus groups to explore three research objectives: (1) current water governance structures and paradigms, (2) capture experiences around success and failure in water projects, and (3) synthesize learnings for insights into enhancing the achievability of SDG 6. Additionally, the concept of the ‘water governance landscape’ is proposed as a tool to more systematically understand trends in water governance, particularly assessing the structural, functional, and normative dimensions. This research concludes the water governance landscape in India is not currently poised to facilitate SDG 6 achievement by 2030, but there are many positive trends toward betterment in policies and programs for water governance. Findings of this research regarding enhancement of SDG 6 achievement include the value of determining contextual enabling and hindering factors for water goals. While the subject matter of specific enabling and hindering factors was not surprising, analyzing trends in the suite of enabling and hindering factors highlighted five broad thematic areas important to enhancing SDG 6 achievement: practical considerations, power relations, knowledge & capacity building, policy design, and institutional design. Additionally, the development of better coordinated water governance processes, the use of diagnostic tools and concepts, and the value of addressing contextual water challenges is discussed. A few generalizable results include the importance of understanding and addressing ‘water sustainability challenges’ in particular, as well as the importance of scale and context. Overall, through better understanding the water governance systems under investigation, delineating processes for what helps and hinders SDG 6 achievability, and putting those processes into practice well, clarity for the pathways toward a more sustainable water future can be attained.
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Danielle Lindamood (2018). Towards a more sustainable water future: water governance and Sustainable Development Goal 6 achievability in India. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12805