Kumar, D. 2018. Water policy science and politics: An Indian perspective. Elsevier, 326 p., Paperback ISBN: 9780128149034, US$130
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To cite this Review: Kyoo-Man, H. 2018. Review of "Water policy science and politics: An Indian perspective", Elsevier, 2018, by Kumar, D., Water Alternatives, http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/boh/item/17-dk
This book argues that politics plays a major role in shaping Indian water policy, while scientific information and data on water resources management are also much influenced by political interests. The author questions the balance between science and politics in the formation of India’s water policy and calls for cooperation between them in order to create a comprehensive water resources management framework. In the concluding remarks, the author maintains that various stakeholders must participate in the process of shaping Indian water policy in order to limit the influence of any single interest group. Though this may take time, the nation will ultimately adopt such a participatory approach – especially for groundwater management – as a new paradigm, particularly through the democratic involvement of individuals and groups.
The author examines a number of projects, cases, stakeholders, resources, and interrelationships, as well as the unfolding of complex politics. Although each of the seventeen chapters addresses specific issues such as water infrastructure, large water-resource projects, irrigation, carbon emissions, poverty reduction, and micro-irrigation systems, the book also outlines the main features of India’s water management from a macro perspective, and the significance of both politics and science therein. The author specifically addresses the role of 'interest groups' in the making of water policy in India, and emphasises that involvement of multiple interest groups might lead to contradictory outcomes.
The book illustrates that far from being objective, science on water in India is infused with politics and ideology, and is underpinned by a lack of conceptual clarity; it further stresses the confusion caused by the involvement of civil society due to multiple and often inconsistent views, and the high extent of corruption in water management owing to the lack of accountability and transparency in water projects. Finally, the author argues that civil society involvement is negative at the moment because of its dominance in policy making, and he calls for more objective science. This book does not provide a utopian viewpoint but offers a pragmatic option for India. The author argues that, rather than freeing the field from politics, it is more feasible to modify the balance between science and politics by rationally incorporating technological and scientific considerations of water management into decision-making processes.
The book would have been improved if the author had discussed the implications of policymaking for developed nations. While he does provide appropriate lessons regarding water management strategies for South Asia, South East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa in Chapter 16, he does not specify any lesson for developed nations despite the fact that almost all nations have faced various (or even similar) problems with respect to water management. In addition, the author does not allocate enough space to a review of India’s water policymaking vis-à-vis natural disaster management, though he mentions drought, climate change, etc. Clearly, natural disasters such as typhoons, that cause floods, land-slides, water scarcity, food insecurity, and infectious diseases, all involve water and thus are within the scope of water policy making. Addressing this would have been a welcome addition.
This book will be of interest to a wide readership as the author does an excellent job of describing the water policy processes in India. Researchers, practitioners, and others in the field of water policy in developed nations should also read this book to better understand the complicated relationships between science, politics, and water policy.