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Develop capacity of Malaysia’s Environmental NGOs in Integrated Water Resource Management

Wetlands International - Malaysia in partnership with the Malaysian Environmental NGO (MENGO) developed a programme empower society, mobilise community action, capitalise local knowledge and raise awareness among the public sector for Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Wetlands International Malaysia played a coordinating role in this project.

Action Description:

Malaysia is rich in water resources, whose development has been the basis for the socio-economic development of the country over the past decades. Lately, the water supply situation for the country has changed from one of relative abundance to one of scarcity. Population growth and urbanisation, industrialisation and the expansion of irrigated agriculture are imposing rapidly increasing demands and pressure on water resources, besides contributing to the rising water pollution.

Water resources and river management have tended to be based mainly on engineering technologies and solutions related to the problems of flood control and water supply.

Water resources management in Malaysia has paid little attention in the past to the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management. However, the government is now rapidly changing its policy and practices. Examples of the change include the establishment of LUAS, the setting up of the National Water Resource Council and the emphasis on integrated approaches in the 8th Malaysia Plan. Institutions such as the Malaysian Water Partnership and MyCap-Net have been established to promote IWRM in Malaysia.

The basis of Integrated Water Resources Management is that different uses of water are interdependent. Integrated management means that all the different uses of water resources are considered together. Thus different user groups (farmers, communities, environmentalists, sanitation, water supply companies, etc.) should be able to influence strategies for water resource development and management. That brings additional benefits, as informed users apply local self-regulation in relation to issues such as water conservation and catchment protection far more effectively than central regulation and surveillance can achieve.

To have a fully effective IWRM process, all stakeholders need to have a good capacity to participate. IWRM can only be successful if all the stakeholders have enough capacity and influence in the process. The government has acknowledged the need for capacity development and several capacity building projects have been implemented. These projects and training courses mostly focussed on government agencies and the private sector. NGOs have been rarely addressed.

NGOs and governments have different roles to play that are complimentary to one another. Hence it is necessary for the NGOs in Malaysia, and especially the environmental NGOs to develop capacity for full participation and full implementation of IWRM in Malaysia.

Project Justification

Integrated Water Resource Management is a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources to maximise resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. 

One of the main principles of IWRM is that water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policymakers at all levels. IWRM can therefore only be successful if all the stakeholders have enough influence capacity to participate fully in the process.

Most of the attention and capacity development initiatives in Malaysia go to universities, governments and professionals, and a lot of technical materials have been produced to promote IWRM in Malaysia.

Environmental NGOs in Malaysia, collaborating under the MENGO network, have a specific role within IWRM. This role includes mobilising society, creating awareness and being the link between individuals of society and the government. However, the specific role of environmental NGOs in the process of IWRM is not fully recognised. This will not change until the MENGOs can build their capacity to do so.

At the moment, environmental NGOs have basic knowledge on IWRM, but most MENGOs do not have a complete, holistic picture. The priorities of MENGOs are on environmental aspects of water management. To have good input in IWRM process, the NGOs need knowledge on the other aspects of IWRM, such as policy, disaster management, water pricing etc. It is not expected that each NGO becomes skilful in all aspects and areas of IWRM. With a better understanding and knowledge of IWRM, the NGOs can participate effectively with government and contribute to planning process, policy, and interagency coordination. 

The individual NGOs should be able to strengthen their individual capacity on IWRM particularly in areas where they have a interest and are currently working on the ground.

Furthermore, it is urgent the NGOs will work together with one another to complement skills and knowledge in promoting and many IWRM at the basin scale. There is a need for networking amongst NGOs to make full use of the efforts and combine the efforts to lobby and advocate to further IWRM in Malaysia.

Therefore we propose a training course on IWRM for environmental NGOs in Malaysia to specifically strengthen their role in the IWRM processes in Malaysia. This training will include subjects such as:

Basic principles of IWRM

  • Stakeholder participation
  • Empowering society
  • Awareness raising among private sector and schools

Target Group

The target of this project is to have all 18 members of MENGOs to participate fully in IWRM and IRBM processes in at least 1 river basin in Malaysia. Eventually the training module can be used by a training institution which involves and caters for NGO type of work.

Aim: The NGO community have been equipped with skills, knowledge and understanding of IWRM in order to be involved in IWRM related activities.

Targets or indicators: 20 people from the NGO sector trained in IWRM each year


a) A set of training modules available on IWRM for non profit organisations.

b) Knowledge and understanding of IWRM which relates to community work are enhanced among the NGO sector  


a) to hold a planning meeting with selected working group members on develop-ment of the topics and subtopics of the modules.

b)     To develop the training modules

c)     To conduct one interactive training session using the developed modules for 20 participants from NGO sector.


To evaluate the training program and write a report on the effectiveness of the modules

Action Partners:

Malaysia Environmental NGO (MENGO)