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Path dependencies and institutional bricolage in post-Soviet water governance

Jenniver Sehring
Institute of Political Science and Social Research, University of Wuerzburg, Germany;

ABSTRACT: Following their independence, the two Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan decided on similar water governance reforms: transfer of local irrigation management to water user associations, introduction of pricing mechanisms, and establishment of hydrographic management principles. In both states, however, proper implementation is lacking. This paper aims to explain this contradiction and focuses on agricultural water governance reforms at the local level as an interdependent part of a multilevel water governance structure.
Based on empirical findings, four variables through which the neopatrimonial context in both countries impacts water governance are identified: the decision-making process, the agricultural sector, the local governance institutions, and internal water-institutional linkages. A historical-institutionalist perspective shows how path dependencies limit reform effectiveness: institutionalised Soviet and pre-Soviet patterns of behaviour still shape actors'€™ responses to new challenges. Consequently, rules and organisations established formally by the state or international donor organisations are undermined by informal institutions. Yet, informal institutions are not only an obstacle to reform, but can also support it. They are not static but dynamic. This is elucidated with the concept of 'institutional bricolage', which explains how local actors recombine elements of different institutional logics and thereby change their meaning.

KEYWORDS: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, irrigation, water governance, new institutionalism