Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Gordon J. Young

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Use of local knowledge, increased public participation, and capacity building – singly or in combination – are identified as major strategies to enhance sustainable and integrated management of water. Recently, capacity assessment has been recognized as one of the most effective means to operationalize these strategies in the context of water resource management However, the contemporary literature shows local-level capacity assessment as one of the least explored areas. The literature shows that capacity assessment still lacks conceptual clarity and an implementable framework. Efforts are being made in this direction, but very few focus below the national level. Many such efforts are theoretical, and those that do focus at the local level are confined to assessment of local needs. Understandings developed through a systematic review of the literature were taken to a small sub-watershed, Gerkhu Khola, in Nepal and an iterative approach imbedded in a case study was used to explore the issue of capacity assessment The approach was based on situated facts, integration and application of both qualitative and quantitative methods, and development of a method of assessment at the local-level with active participation of local-level stakeholders. The iterative approach also included local-level analysis of sustainable water resource management principles as given by the International Conference on Water and Environment in 1992 (The Dublin Principles: 1992), which helped to define an ideal condition for water resource management. Therefore, the thrust of this thesis is also to examine to what extent the recent ideas developed at the international and national levels are applicable at the local levels. All findings and syntheses of the case study were discussed with the grassroots level stakeholders to better justify and relate the findings to their knowledge and consensus. The findings indicated that a systematic exploration of actions, attitudes and preferences of local people is essential for capacity assessment. It was observed that the local people are able to understand and analyze the relevance of sustainable conditions identified for water resource management viz., finiteness of water, participatory and users' involvement, women's role and the economic value of water. The local reactions to these conditions were demonstrated through sustainable actions, strong attitudinal inclination and ability to prioritize. Locally, capacity assessment is seen both as a solution and a problem. A framework developed based on the findings suggests that capacity assessment should be an iterative process with strong interdependence existing among the different modes of assessment. It is hoped that the framework developed in this thesis will streamline efforts to integrate and synthesize local-level capacity in water resource management. This study also found that the issue of local-level capacity assessment provides a challenging arena for further exploration.

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