The water crisis is a global challenge, which is caused by natural climate changes or human activities. The impact of mismanagements and poor institutions on the ability of socioecological systems to react to the stresses imposed on them is emphasized in the literature (Pahl-Wostl, 2009, Madani and Mariño, 2009). Fragile institutions can decrease the ability of a socio-ecological system to adapt to the changes (Pahl-Wostl, 2009). Urmia Lake basin in Iran is one of the regions which has experienced severe environmental degradation during the last four decades. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the impacts of institutional changes in water management on the adaptive capacity of the Urmia Lake basin as a socio-ecological system. The main research question is: to what extent institutional arrangements have influenced the adaptive capacity of the Urmia lake basin? In order to analyze the institutional arrangements, Östrom design principles are used as the common characteristics of robust institutions. The adaptive capacity is investigated by using the asset-based approach. This is an explanatory research, and single case study is used as its research strategy. In this study, it is concluded that adaptive capacity is affected by actions which are outcomes of the decisions made by a fragile institutional arrangement. Lack of clear boundaries, lack of congruence between rules and local context, low public participation, weak monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms, absence of local institutions and absence of bottom-up movements have made the governance system fragile. The fragile institutional arrangements have led to a considerable decrease in the natural capacity of the system, which the decrease in the Urmia Lake’s level of water proves it. The economic capacity of the system has decreased because of the wrong decisions, which were not based on the context and capacities of the system. The physical capacity is not developed properly since the governance regime was not paying attention to increasing the efficiency of the agriculture sector. The human capacity also has decreased because of the lack of opportunities for the community to participate in the management of their environment and also lack of opportunities for the young and educated people to use their abilities. In addition, the role of social capital is emphasized in this research. The social capital and institutional arrangements are in a dynamic relationship and they are continuously affecting each other. The changes in the institutional arrangements have affected the social capital and the changes in the social capital have affected the abilities of the governance system to manage the resources properly. In addition, social capital is affecting the adaptive capacity of the basin. For instance, social capital is required for sharing knowledge between users and different actors which has affected the physical capacity and also the human capacity of the system. In this study, the importance of local institutions is emphasized which can be a proper policy to improve the governance system. These institutions can be highly effective in clarifying the boundaries, decreasing the gap between rules and the context, enhancing the public participation, monitoring the resources from the local level and solving the conflicts in user level. The central government should provide opportunities for bottom-up movements and enable the local institutions to participate effectively in the decision making process.

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Keywords Institutional arrangements, Adaptive Capacity, Östrom design principles, Urmia Lake Basin
Thesis Advisor Ast, J. van (Jacko)
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Note UMD 14 Report number: 1183
Sarabi, S.E. (Shahryar Ershad). (2018, September 3). Impact of institutional arrangements on the adaptive capacity of the Urmia lake basin. Retrieved from