Urbanizing Watersheds: Angat River

Collaborative Governance for an Urbanizing Watershed:
The Case of Angat River

The Angat River Basin, located in the Province of Bulacan, Philippines, faces a critical tipping point. Left to its current institutional arrangements, the increasing complexity and pressure caused by the multitude of actors and differential uses of the basin’s water resources are likely to precipitate a state-shift from one capable of providing the requisite ecosystem goods and services for a thriving economy and society to one incapable of supporting those most dependent upon it. Such a ‘tragedy of the commons’ scenario, however, is not inevitable. Indeed, by taking a diagnostic approach toward the analysis of social-ecological systems (SES), one can uncover the failed or missing institutions whose resolution requires careful attention to context and place. This project endeavors to explore the potential governance arrangements that might foster the collective action and collaboration needed to ensure the continuity of both the human and ecological communities within the basin in the face of uncertainty and change.

Formally titled Collaborative Governance for an Urbanizing Watershed: Integrated Research, Institution and Capacity-building for Sustainability and Climate-risk Adaptation in the Angat River Basin, Philippines, the project is a three-year (2012-2015) effort funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada and involves a large consortium of universities and associated organizations located both in Canada and the Philippines. Project partners include the University of British Columbia, Provincial Government of Bulacan, Bulacan State University, De La Salle University, University of Guelph, Fraser Basin Council, and the University of Northern British Columbia. The project is guided by two primary objectives: (1) to identify and analyze the system of relationships among political, economic, social, and cultural factors supporting (or hindering) the regional institution-building and collaborative governance needed in urbanizing watersheds, and (2) to generate knowledge about the kinds of remedial or preventive collaborative action that could be taken by governments and civil-society organizations to strengthen interjurisdictional governance for watershed sustainability and climate-change adaptation.

In an effort to capitalize on the diverse array of skills of participating team members, the project has been divided into three research areas: (1) ecology, risk, climate scenarios, and alternatives, (2) governance and institutional design alternatives, and (3) collaborative governance processes and outcomes analysis. These research areas will be translated into substantive “on-the-ground” results through four key project components: (1) action research, (2) capacity-building, (3) knowledge mobilization, and (4) policy and institutional development. Action research is grounded in Dewey’s “learning-by-doing” pragmatic approach to understanding and fits well with an adaptive management approach of treating policies as hypotheses and their real-world application as experiments and learning opportunities. Capacity-building will ensure the outcomes of this project are able to be sustained by those most affected in a developing-country context. Knowledge mobilization will encourage the translation of research results into action via associated project components. Finally, the development of policies and institutions will serve to operationalize project feedback and embed research results in the broader social-ecological context, thereby ensuring their capacity to generate desired change.

Further information can be found on the project website. Additional questions can be directed to Dr. Leonora Angeles (Principle Investigator) at nora.angeles@ubc.ca or Mrs. Linda Torio (Project Secretary) at linda.torio@gmail.com.