Water security, participatory governance, and dialogue spaces for change in Northern Sri Lanka

Nadarajah Sriskandarajah, Murugesu Sivapalan

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


Water Security through Participatory Action Research in the Northern Province (WASPAR) is a project driven by the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, since March 2020. The project itself and some of the significant outcomes over the 3-year first phase of research are outlined here. WASPAR took inspiration from two emerging fields of study: Sociohydrology and Environmental Communication. Socio-hydrology is envisaged as a science underpinning water governance, which engages with changes in both hydrology and society, not one or the other. Environmental Communication applied here works on the premise that how well we communicated with each other about water determined how well we addressed the ecological crisis. Communicating is synonymous to learning across multiple perspectives held by the many actors, often actors with competing interests and conflicting values. WASPAR acknowledged the limitations of existing institutional and social structures and their fragmented ways of water management. Instead, it put forward the search for a holistic, trans-disciplinary, and multistakeholder approach for water security. Work to date on the project presented here reflect quantitative data gathered through empirical research within the project and in the field. Reflective analysis of qualitative data obtained from the participatory research processes are to be published later. Altogether, WASPAR project has made preliminary but promising steps in progressing towards informing, influencing and educating stakeholders, domain experts and decision-makers on the need for and merits of participatory decision-making, generating a sense of community, and the development of institutional infrastructure. Continuation of these efforts with increased participation of the research community in the universities during the next phase of this project needs to foster the governance approach and ensure the legitimacy and influence of the Northern Water Dialogue Forum in place for planning a water secure future for the Province.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-413
Number of pages9
JournalWorld Water Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Sri Lanka
  • dialogue spaces
  • environmental communication
  • governance
  • socio-hydrology
  • water security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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