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De- and re-politicisation of water security as examined through the lens of the hydrosocial cycle: The case of Jakartaʼs sea wall plan

Thanti Octavianti
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; and Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of the West of England, Bristol; thanti.octavianti@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Katrina Charles
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; katrina.charles@ouce.ox.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: This article asks how the pursuit of major engineering works causes changes in existing water-society relations. We employ the concept of the hydrosocial cycle postulated by Linton and Budds (2014) as an analytical framework and draw specific insights from political ecology and science and technology studies (STS). Using as a case study a sea wall megaproject plan in Jakarta, Indonesia, we find that such a project can depoliticise the cityʼs water security issues by rendering them technical and by dehumanising citizens and discounting the future. Using scientific language and logic, policymakers discourage the exploration of alternatives other than the sea wall. To repoliticise these water issues, we mobilise the concept of the hydrosocial cycle and tailor it to the context of large infrastructure. We identify departure points that may improve the current socio-natural process in Jakarta, particularly the empowerment of the middle class to voice their project-related concerns, and the recognition of the different capacities of each group in society to adapt to water-related hazards.

KEYWORDS: Water security, political ecology, hydrosocial cycle, sea wall plan, Jakarta, Indonesia