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Cultural political economy of irrigation management in northeastern Ethiopia: The case of the Kobo-Girana Valley Development Programme

Million Gebreyes
Development Geography, Institute of Geography, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany; milliongeb@gmail.com

Detlef Müller-Mahn
Institute of Geography, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany; mueller-mahn@uni-bonn.de

ABSTRACT: This paper aims to extend a 'politicised' understanding of irrigation management using theoretical perspectives in political ecology and cultural political economy. The paper is based on a case study of the Kobo-Girana Valley Development Program in Amhara Region, Ethiopia. Data was collected in the course of 20 in-depth interviews, 10 expert interviews, seven focus group discussions, and field observations. The findings of the study show that irrigation management in the Ethiopian context is a highly political enterprise involving heterogeneous state-sector offices, local irrigation users, and other actors. The state uses the hegemony of its developmental state political ideology and various governmentality mechanisms to contain the irrigation management process. Irrigation users react with a variety of counter-hegemonic strategies to resist the state’s containment measures. Such an understanding of irrigation management could help us to refocus our attention away from the conventional technologies and institutions that dominate irrigation management studies, and towards the dimensions of power and politics.

KEYWORDS: Cultural political economy, irrigation, state-society, politics, coordination, Ethiopia

 

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Grounded and global: Water infrastructure development and policymaking in the Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar

Benoit Ivars
University of Köln, Germany; benoit.ivars@uni-koeln.de

Jean-Philippe Venot
UMR G-EAU, IRD, Univ Montpellier, France; and Royal University of Agriculture, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; jean-philippe.venot@ird.fr

ABSTRACT: Seen as hotspots of vulnerability in the face of external pressures such as sea level rise, upstream water development, and extreme weather events but also of in situ dynamics such as increasing water use by local residents and demographic growth, deltas are high on the international science and development agenda. What emerges in the literature is the image of a 'global delta' that lends itself to global research and policy initiatives and their critique. We use the concept of 'boundary object' to critically reflect on the emergence of this global delta. We analyse the global delta in terms of its underpinning discourses, narratives, and knowledge generation dynamics, and through examining the politics of delta-oriented development and aid interventions. We elaborate this analytical argument on the basis of a 150-year historical analysis of water infrastructure development and policymaking in the Ayeyarwady Delta, paying specific attention to recent attempts at developing an Integrated Ayeyarwady Delta Strategy (IADS) and the role that the development of this strategy has played in the 'making' of the Ayeyarwady Delta as a global delta. This lays the groundwork for a broader critique of recent efforts to promote a 'Dutch Delta Approach' internationally, which we contend not only contributes to, but also aims at, making this global delta a boundary object. Such efforts play a key role in structuring an ever-expanding actor network supporting delta research and (sustainable/integrated) development. However, the making of a boundary object such as the global delta also hinges on depoliticising (delta) development. This, we consider to be problematic notably in the context of Myanmar where land and water politics have strongly shaped the changes the Ayeyarwady Delta has and will continue to witness.

KEYWORDS: Boundary object, actor network, knowledge production, discourse, Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar

 

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The Yarmouk tributary to the Jordan River I: Agreements Impeding equitable transboundary water arrangements

Mark Zeitoun
School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK; m.zeitoun@uea.ac.uk

Chadi Abdallah
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Beirut, Lebanon; chadi@cnrs.edu.lb

Muna Dajani
Middle East Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK; m.d.dajani@lse.ac.uk

Saʼeb Khresat
Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid, Jordan; khresats@gmail.com

Heather Elaydi
Independent researcher; heather.elaydi@gmail.com

Amani Alfarra
Independent researcher; amani.alfarra@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: This article explores the ways in which two international water agreements on the Yarmouk tributary to the Jordan River induce or impede transformation to equitable transboundary water arrangements. The agreements in question were reached between Jordan and Syria in 1987, and between Jordan and Israel in 1994. Following a brief review of theory and a summary of the body of knowledge on 'model' agreements, the article combines official river-gauging data with interviews and textual analysis to query the text and role of the agreements, particularly in relation to key dams and other infrastructure. Both agreements are found to i) lack important clauses that could govern groundwater abstraction, environmental concerns, water quality, and the ability to adapt to changing water quality, availability and need; and ii) include both ambiguous and rigid clauses that result in generally inequitable allocation of water and thus of the benefits derived from its use. Due to their omissions and to their reflection of the asymmetries in power between the states, both agreements are found to be 'blind' to existing use, to be incapable of dealing with urgent governance needs, and to impede more equitable arrangements.

KEYWORDS: Jordan River, Yarmouk, transboundary water politics, water treaties, water agreements, hydro-hegemony, Jordan, Syria, Israel


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The Yarmouk tributary to the Jordan River II: Infrastructure impeding the transformation of equitable transboundary water arrangements

Mark Zeitoun
School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK; m.zeitoun@uea.ac.uk

Muna Dajani
Middle East Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK; m.d.dajani@lse.ac.uk

Chadi Abdallah
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Beirut, Lebanon; chadi@cnrs.edu.lb

Saʼeb Khresat
Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid, Jordan; khresats@gmail.com

Heather Elaydi
Independent researcher; heather.elaydi@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: This article explores the ways in which key components of infrastructure built on the Yarmouk tributary to the Jordan River induce or impede the transformation of existing transboundary water arrangements. Focussing on the Jordanian-Israeli Adassiyeh Weir and on the Jordanian-Syrian Wehdeh Dam, the article interprets archival documents, official river-gauging data, and interviews through a frame that highlights depoliticisation by hydrocracies within the politics of international infrastructure. The weir is found to be operated in a manner that prioritises Jordanʼs commitment to Israel when flows are low, and to be designed to bound the volume that Jordan can make use of during low or very high flows. The dam appears oversized but regulates the flow to the downstream weir when its reservoir does not lie empty. The design and operation of the infrastructure is found to partially and selectively depoliticise contentious transboundary water issues in a manner that privileges the more powerful actors. Transformation of the arrangements is impeded as the distribution and use of the flows is not questioned by the water authorities or the international diplomatic community, and alternative arrangements are not considered.

KEYWORDS: Jordan River, Yarmouk, transboundary water, treaties, agreements, international infrastructure, power, Jordan, Syria, Israel


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Cultural Political Economy and critical water studies: An introduction to the Special Themed Section

Peter P. Mollinga
SOAS University of London, London, UK; pm35@soas.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: The attraction of taking a Cultural Political Economy (CPE) perspective in the analysis of questions related to water use, management and governance is threefold: (i) CPE is an effort to capture the multidimensionality of social dynamics by emphasising the cultural dimension of political economy and then investigating the internal relations of these different dimensions; (ii) CPE addresses both the structure and agency dimensions of social reproduction and transformation; it proposes a particular (strategic-relational) way of studying the two in an interlinked manner; (iii) the object of (most) CPE analysis – the state – is highly relevant to water studies, as the state is a, if not the, central actor in water governance and state action as regards water resources is increasingly set in the context of globalisation and neoliberalisation.

KEYWORDS: Critical water studies, Cultural Political Economy


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Political culture in water governance – A theoretical framework

Nadine Reis
El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Urbanos y Ambientales (CEDUA), Mexico City; nreis@colmex.mx

ABSTRACT: This paper aims to contribute to a Cultural Political Economy (CPE) of water governance by focusing on the role of political culture in water governance. It develops a conceptual understanding of political culture and a theoretical framework for using political culture as a concept in a CPE of water governance. Three theoretical building blocks are used. First, I use Bob Jessopʼs elaborations on a relational understanding of state power, which emphasises the critical role of processes of legitimacy creation for any hegemonic state project. Second, Margaret Archerʼs understanding of culture as 'cultural system' is used in order to conceptualise the notion of 'culture' from a critical realist perspective. By understanding 'culture' as an equivalent to the concept of 'structure', it becomes possible to evade an empiricist or statist concept of culture. Political cultures can then be defined as systems of meaning comprising propositions about political legitimacy. Third, I draw on Gabriel A. Almondʼs and Sidney Verbaʼs ideas on political culture, and present three dimensions of political culture that are relevant in the analysis of water governance: system culture, process culture and policy culture. The concepts are illustrated with case study material from Vietnam and with other cases from the literature.

KEYWORDS: Cultural Political Economy, political culture, state power, state legitimacy, water governance


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Imagineering waterscapes: The case of the Dutch water sector

Chris H. Büscher
Department of Development Studies, SOAS University of London, London, United Kingdom; chrisbuscher@hotmail.com

ABSTRACT: This article explores the imagineering of waterscapes using a cultural political economy (CPE) approach. 'Imagineering' is a portmanteau of imagining and engineering, and a 'waterscape' is taken to be a produced hydrosocial entity. On the one hand, then, imagineering waterscapes involves construing a hydrosocial imaginary based on material realities; on the other, such an imaginary itself ought to have performative and material effects. This article is primarily concerned with imagineering waterscapes at the national scale, taking the Dutch Water Sector (DWS) as a case in point. The article examines elements of the Netherlands' water history, geography, agential configurations, and the water infrastructural and conceptual inventions that serve as selectivities in the DWS imaginary. Anticipated performative effects of this DWS imaginary include gaining a competitive edge in the world market for water-related products and services and an enhanced power position in global water networks. The DWS case therefore illustrates how imagineering is simultaneously a cultural and political economic process or 'tactic', aimed at seducing prospective (business) partners into 'buying' particular hydrosocial visions and arrangements. I argue that imagineering is a strategic and potentially powerful tool in todayʼs intensified discursive struggles about how water (crises) ought to be seen and treated. But todayʼs focus on imagineering can also partly be explained as having replaced more coercive tactics (such as tied aid) that were once commonly used in the pursuit of Dutch water interests abroad. This is not to say that imagineering is somehow less political; our examination of this case shows how the politics of privileging and marginalising and of forgetting and remembering are engrained in the process of imagineering waterscapes.

KEYWORDS: Imagineering, waterscape, cultural political economy, Dutch Water Sector


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Undercurrents of participatory groundwater governance in Rural Jalna, western India

Poonam Argade
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, Mumbai, India; and Social Science Program, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA; psargade@syr.edu

N.C. Narayanan
Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, IIT Bombay, Mumbai, India; ncn@iitb.ac.in

ABSTRACT: This paper analyses a participatory groundwater governance project called Purna Groundwater Management Association (PGWMA). A pilot project under the World Bank-funded Maharashtra Water Sector Improvement Project, the PGWMA project spanned eight villages in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. In the case study, we used ethnographic interviews, discussions with villagers, and analysis of project materials. At the governance level, we found that the groundwater problem was conceptualised in a depoliticised way and involved an oversimplified notion of the community; it also deployed a checklist-type approach to equity, sustainability and participation, and attempted to commodify water. At the level of the community, our observations of peopleʼs access to groundwater, and of their perceptions and knowledge, showed that the project failed to inculcate the idea of groundwater as commons. While the project led to slightly improved water access, for the most part it redeployed caste, class and gender relations and led to negligible improvement in community participation. The study examines the paradoxical coexistence of the 'success' of the participatory governance model and the actual failure to steer the community-groundwater relationship towards sustainability. The case could not be entirely explained by existing critiques within development studies (the root cause of the over-extraction problem was unsustainably high groundwater need); it did not fit the 'implementation failure' critique, nor did we find a semblance of an 'ideal', 'traditional' system of resource management; a politicised understanding of the community was also insufficient. Using the Cultural Political Economy approach, we found that the historical sedimentation of high groundwater demand was linked to an imaginary of a 'better life' through social structures, political economy, technology access and postcolonial development policies that have influenced agricultural practices. The situation has become unsustainable due to dwindling water tables. Thinking through these 'undercurrents' of groundwater governance leads to a deeper understanding of the groundwater problem, its framings and meanings at multiple levels, and its links to equity and sustainability.

KEYWORDS: Participation, groundwater governance, hard rock aquifer, community-groundwater relationship, Cultural Political Economy, Maharashtra, India


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Reform and regression: Discourses of water reallocation in Mpumalanga, South Africa

Rebecca Peters
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; rebecca.peters@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Philip Woodhouse
The Global Development Institute, School of Environment, Education and Development, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK; phil.woodhouse@manchester.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: This paper traces the implementation of reforms in water resource management in the Inkomati catchment, South Africa, since the National Water Act of 1998. It focuses on the ways that the predominant water users – white commercial farmers – have negotiated competing demands for water, particularly from black farmers and from growing urban water supply systems. The paper argues that existing commercial agricultural interests have largely succeeded in maintaining their access to water. We investigate this outcome using a cultural political economy perspective which focuses on an analysis of discourses of water allocation and explores how different discourses are reinforced by social practice and through their adoption by, and diffusion through, institutions of water governance. The research has identified three principle narratives that underpin discourse: scarcity, participation, and rights. It focuses on the ways in which calculative techniques for quantifying water use and economic value have been used to reinforce discourses rooted in narratives of water scarcity, and how these narratives ultimately structure water reallocation by agencies of water governance. The paper also identifies the wider political and economic dynamics at play, and the processes that may shift the current discourse of water reallocation.

KEYWORDS: Water reform, South Africa, cultural political economy, discourse, water re-allocation


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Policy discretion, adaptation pressure and reloading implementation experiences in EU water governance: The case of the Netherlands

Marjolein M.C.J. van Eerd
Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; c.dieperink@uu.nl

Mark M.A. Wiering
Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; mailxx

Carel C. Dieperink
Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; mailxx

ABSTRACT: European water governance is characterised by processes of interplay and interaction. Member states present and discuss their preferences and expertise in the EU policy arena and implement EU policies at the domestic level. These processes of 'uploading' and 'downloading' are regularly studied. However, a knowledge gap exists concerning the 'reloading' of implementation experiences, i.e. the renewed uploading of information on how policies actually work domestically and how possible implementation problems are solved. Certain characteristics of EU policies are expected to affect processes of reloading. In this paper we study how adaptation pressures and the levels of policy discretion affect the reloading of implementation experiences. We empirically assess reloading processes in the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive. It was expected that a low level of policy discretion leads to clear reloading incentives, in order to either change the policy (if fit is low and adaptation pressure is high) or maintain stability (if fit is high and adaptation pressure is low). A high degree of policy discretion, on the other hand, leads to no incentive at all for reloading. The relatively specific Water Framework Directive indeed shows cases of reloading in which implementing agents discuss their rather technical implementation experiences in order to adjust policy or to maintain the status quo in line with their interests. However, it is notable that reloading also takes place in the relatively discretionary policy process of the Floods Directive. Reloading in this case is driven by social learning, and is triggered by the idealistic aim of improving flood risk management practices instead of changing or maintaining the policy on the basis of self-interest. The paper concludes that policy discretion and adaptation pressure do influence reloading processes, but that other factors also must be taken into account.

KEYWORDS: Policy implementation, policy feedback, EU Water Framework Directive, EU Floods Directive, policy characteristics, reloading, EU water governance, EU policy process, European Union

 

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City sanitation planning through a political economy lens

Kumi Abeysuriya
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW, Australia; kumi.abeysuriya@uts.edu.au

Juliet Willetts
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW, Australia; juliet.willetts@uts.edu.au

Naomi Carrard
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW, Australia; naomi.carrard@uts.edu.au

Antoinette Kome
Water Sanitation WASH, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, The Hague, The Netherlands; akome@snv.org

ABSTRACT: While citywide sanitation planning is perceived to be an enabler of coordinated improvements in sanitation services for developing countries, intended outcomes have often been elusive. In order to illustrate how political economy, chosen planning approaches, and ideas about change and development have acted as determinants of outcomes, this paper draws on three case study countries that took qualitatively different approaches to sanitation planning – Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. The analysis found that the assumptions informing the planning methods were often not valid, which then undermined the potential for successful implementation. Based on the analysis, the paper argues that urban sanitation planning and implementation in developing countries needs to be transformed to reduce the emphasis on comprehensiveness and instead emphasise flexibility, a learning orientation and strategically chosen incentives. This approach demands tighter cycles of planning and action, direct testing of assumptions, and an in-depth understanding of the local- and national-level political economy and the links between them. It requires innovation to be enabled, with funding mechanisms that focus on outcome rather than input. In this way it would be possible to shift away from the typical emphasis on prescriptive procedural planning steps and towards delivery of the much-needed improved sanitation outcomes.

KEYWORDS: Urban sanitation, sanitation planning, political economy, developing countries, Southeast Asia

 

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Participation and power dynamics between international non-governmental organisations and local partners: A rural water case study in Indonesia

Ian Cunningham
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney; ian.cunningham@uts.edu.au

Juliet Willetts
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney; juliet.willetts@uts.edu.au

Keren Winterford
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney; keren.winterford@uts.edu.au

Tim Foster
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney; tim.foster@uts.edu.au

ABSTRACT: Community-Based Management (CBM) is an important part of Indonesia’s goal of universal access to water. However, approaches to CBM tend to neglect the impact of power relationships between community-based organisations (CBOs) and their external donor partners on CBO management capacity. This paper explores the power dynamics between a CBO and their donor partner, the international NGO Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB), in a rural water supply project in Tenganan, Indonesia. A diffracted power frame was used to analyse the response of CBO power to EWB’s participatory approach. The approach was sensitised to power, gave primacy to the CBO’s vision, used local assets, and had a flexible timeline. The CBO’s power was evident in the strength of its vision, its resistance to government involvement, the occasional rejection of technical advice from EWB, and its increased confidence in its capacity to manage Tenganan’s water supply. The findings reinforce the political nature of participation, with implications for approaches to establishing CBM in Indonesia and elsewhere. Strengthened outcomes in rural water supply are likely to result from greater self-reflection by external partners regarding their own positionality, coupled with a focus on strategies for maintaining and enhancing the power of CBOs.

KEYWORDS: Rural water supply, power, participation, community-based management, Indonesia

 

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A sociopolitical analysis of drinking water governance in French Polynesia: The case of the Tuamotu Archipelago

Klervi Fustec
Independent researcher, France; klervi.fustec@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: The assertion that only a small percentage of the French Polynesian population has access to drinking water is found in press reports and in reports by the French Senate and the French Polynesian Centre for Hygiene and Public Health, reports that were prepared in the context of implementing a new water law. In reality, however, inhabitants do have access to drinking water. How can we explain this discrepancy? This article analyses the sociopolitical dimensions of multilevel formal water governance in Tuamotu, one of the five French Polynesian archipelagos. Tuamotu's inhabitants use household rainwater harvesting cisterns for their drinking water provision. The analysis demonstrates that the current formal governance system is incapable of generating locally relevant and specific policies, and continues to struggle with inappropriate policy ideas derived from French Polynesia's experience as a French State.

KEYWORDS: Drinking water, cisterns, multilevel formal governance, French Polynesia, Tuamotu

 

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Giving water its place: Artificial glaciers and the politics of place in a high-altitude Himalayan Village

Arjun Sharma
Modernity and Society 1800-2000 Department, Leuven, Belgium; arjun091182@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: Jeff Malpasʼ concept of place as a bounded, open, and emergent structure is used in this article to understand the reasons for the differences in villagersʼ responses to 'artificial glaciers', or 'Ice stupas', built in two different places in the Himalayan village of Phyang, in Ladakh. Using archival material, geographic information system tools and ethnographic research, this study reveals how Phyang as a village is constituted by interacting ecological-technical, socio-symbolic, and bureaucratic-legal boundaries. It is observed that technologies such as land revenue records, and cadastral maps, introduced in previous processes of imperialist state formation, continue to inform water politics in this Himalayan region. It is further demonstrated how this politics is framed within the village of Phyang, but also shifts its boundaries to create the physical, discursive, and symbolic space necessary for projects like the Ice stupa to emerge. By examining the conflict through the lens of place, it is possible to identify the competing discursive frames employed by different stakeholders to legitimise their own projects for developing the arid area (or Thang) where the contested Ice stupa is located. Such an analysis allows critical water scholarship to understand both how places allow hydrosocial relationships to emerge, and how competing representations of place portray these relationships. Understanding the role of place in the constitution of hydrosocial relationships allows for a more nuanced appraisal of the challenges and opportunities inherent in negotiating development interventions aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. It is also recommended that scholars studying primarily the institutional dimensions of community-managed resource regimes consider the impact on these institutions of technological artefacts such as the high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes used to construct the Ice stupas.

KEYWORDS: Artificial glaciers, place, irrigation, water politics, Ladakh

 

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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