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Institutions that cannot manage change: A Gandhian perspective on the Cauvery dispute in South India

Narendar Pani
National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India;

ABSTRACT: There is a growing recognition that water conflicts extend well beyond issues of water scarcity. Perceptions of scarcity are themselves based on assumptions of what is sufficient. And what is considered sufficient is in turn influenced by a number of social, economic and even political considerations. There is thus a need for a more inclusive method of understanding water conflicts and the institutions needed to address them. Among such alternative methods is the one used by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This paper adopts the Gandhian method to reinterpret the interstate dispute over the water of the south Indian river, Cauvery. It then uses this more inclusive method to identify the conflict-easing and conflict- enhancing aspects of the dispute. In the process, the limitations of the existing institutions in addressing the conflict become evident.

KEYWORDS: River basin, conflicts, institutions, Gandhi, Cauvery, India