The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Bringing Back the Common Sense? Integrated Approaches in Water Management: Lessons Learnt from the Mekong

Marko Keskinen

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture for public examination and debate in Auditorium R1 at the Aalto University School of Science and Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 3rd of September 2010 at 12 noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-3234-4)   [2590 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-3233-7)


Water management is changing: the narrowly defined management practices that have for long been dominating are being replaced by more comprehensive approaches. Integrated approaches –including the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)– represent the forerunners of this change, and they are thus loaded with expectations. The reality is, however, more complicated, with many of the integrated processes failing to live up to their promises.

This Thesis looks at integrated approaches used in water management and impact assessment, with a focus on the transboundary Mekong River Basin and the related Tonle Sap Lake area in Cambodia. The seven appended articles discuss an array of water management and assessment contexts in the region, sharing practical experiences on the use of integrated approaches. The synthesis places the current integrationist drive into the broader context through an analysis of the development of integrated approaches as well as through a review of multi-disciplinary research approaches. Despite their emphasis on integration between different sectors and disciplines, integrated water management approaches are found to have surprisingly weak linkages with similar approaches in the other fields. In terms of the actual implementation of integrated water management, the Thesis recognises six key elements to be particularly critical: Comprehensiveness, Institutions, Politics, Methods, Team and Inclusiveness. Experiences from the Mekong on all these elements are summarised, and their significance and contribution to the practices of integrated water management is described.

The Thesis concludes by noting that while the current integrated water management practices are often strong on practical integration methods, they at the same time partly neglect the broader philosophical and contextual aspects related to integration. Yet, since integrated management always involves a range of actors with their intricate interconnections, integration is not just a mechanical procedure, but very much a personal and political issue as well. What really matters are therefore not only the technical methods for integration, but also the ways the management and research teams in specific management contexts communicate, collaborate and interact with their various stakeholders as well as –an issue that is frequently forgotten– internally within their teams.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 7 publications:

  1. Marko Keskinen, Katri Mehtonen, and Olli Varis. 2008. Transboundary cooperation vs. internal ambitions: The role of China and Cambodia in the Mekong region. In: Nevelina I. Pachova, Mikiyasu Nakayama, and Libor Jansky (editors). International Water Security: Domestic Threats and Opportunities. Tokyo, Japan: United Nations University Press. Pages 79-109. ISBN 978-92-808-1150-6. © 2008 United Nations University Press. By permission.
  2. Juha Sarkkula, Marko Keskinen, Jorma Koponen, Matti Kummu, Jussi Nikula, Olli Varis, and Markku Virtanen. 2007. Mathematical modeling in integrated management of water resources: Magical tool, mathematical toy or something in between? In: Louis Lebel, John Dore, Rajesh Daniel, and Yang Saing Koma (editors). Democratizing Water Governance in the Mekong Region. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Mekong Press. Chapter 6, pages 127-156 + references 253-255. ISBN 978-974-9511-25-1. © 2007 Mekong Press. By permission.
  3. Marko Keskinen. 2006. The lake with floating villages: Socio-economic analysis of the Tonle Sap Lake. International Journal of Water Resources Development, volume 22, number 3, pages 463-480.
  4. Olli Varis and Marko Keskinen. 2006. Policy analysis for the Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia: A Bayesian network model approach. International Journal of Water Resources Development, volume 22, number 3, pages 417-431.
  5. Marko Keskinen. 2008. Population, natural resources & development in the Mekong: Does high population density hinder development? In: Matti Kummu, Marko Keskinen, and Olli Varis (editors). Modern Myths of the Mekong: A critical review of water and development concepts, principles and policies. Espoo, Finland: Helsinki University of Technology. Water & Development Publications - Helsinki University of Technology. TKK-WD-01. Pages 107-121. ISBN 978-951-22-9102-1. ISSN 1797-254X. © 2008 by author.
  6. Marko Keskinen, Mira Käkönen, Prom Tola, and Olli Varis. 2007. The Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia: water-related conflicts with abundance of water. The Economics of Peace and Security Journal, volume 2, number 2, pages 49-59. © 2007 Economists for Peace and Security (UK) (EPSUK). By permission.
  7. Marko Keskinen. 2008. Water resources development and impact assessment in the Mekong Basin: Which way to go? Ambio, volume 37, number 3, pages 193-198. © 2008 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. By permission.

Keywords: integration, integrated water management, impact assessment, Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), multi-disciplinarity, transboundary river basin, Mekong, Tonle Sap

This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.

© 2010 Aalto University School of Science and Technology

Last update 2011-05-26