IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
5. Water Governance and Water Security
Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography,
Chinese Academy of Sciences, South Beijing Road 40-3, Urumqi,Xinjiang 830011,China
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water Governance, China,
Legislation, institutional Reform
AbstractWater governance and its
major elements reveal that an adequate legal and institutional framework to be in place is essential for the good water
As a typically centralized country, China had put the water governance on the competent water
administration departments (CWADs) at various levels through decisions and resolutions since the establishment of
new China in 1949. How to make these departments accountable, participatory and transparent has been the great
effort of China to achieve good water governance in the whole country. However, without appropriate legal and
institutional framework for water administration in river basins, these departments vacillated between their powers
and functions, thus lack of good governance.
In enacting Water Law of China in 1978, identifying CWADs
above county level and delimitation of theirs powers and functions became a major theme of legislation. China
adopted first national Water Law in 1988. The law has a striking characteristic in that it lodges the CWADs and
provides for a basic administrative system that “a system combines unified administration with administration at
various levels and by various departments”. In implementing this law, one of major shortfalls is that it hindered the
effective water governance at the river basin level, because it has not any explicit provisions on the water
administration at the river basin level, functions of seven existing river basin agencies (RBAs). The revision of this law
became an urgent mater because the serious water pollution of most river basins and serious water shortage in
northern China since early 1990s.
The 2002 Revised Water Law was adopted to deal with these long-
standing issues by providing for “a system of management of river basins combined with management of
administrative regions”, and empowering the RBAs functions. This conforms that the Chinese Government has
recognized the fragmental water management is a great impediment to promoting their accountability. However, the
2002 Revised Water Law does not explicate the participatory and transparency mechanisms of those RBAs named
as water resources commissions but actually delegated the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) other then real
commissions participated by all stakeholders. How to avoid the long-standing action on its own will of each RBA is
still a challenge for good water governance at the river basin level.
Given the great significance of those major
river basins defined by the State to the national water management, the author first reviews the major difficulties and
issues in exerting good water governance of those RBAs. And then, the possibility of establishing a complete
commission participating by the leaders of all relevant ministries and provinces within each key river basin is analyzed
based on international experiences and national conditions. Particularly, an integrated approach is suggested to this
possible mechanism in order to improve the accountability and enforce the equitable participation and transparency
in ongoing nation-wide institutional reform of water sector. Finally, the author gives some suggestions to the revision
of the national water law in order to ensure good water governance in China.