Folder Issue2




Coexistence and conflict: IWRM and large-scale water infrastructure development in piura, Peru

Megan Mills-Novoa
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Rossi Taboada Hermoza
Laboratorio de Teledetección, Universidad Nacional de San Marcos, Lima, Perú; and Escuela de Posgrado, Pontifica Universidad Católica de Perú, Lima, Perú

ABSTRACT: Despite the emphasis of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) on 'soft' demand-side management, large-scale water infrastructure is increasingly being constructed in basins managed under an IWRM framework. While there has been substantial research on IWRM, few scholars have unpacked how IWRM and large-scale water infrastructure development coexist and conflict. Piura, Peru is an important site for understanding how IWRM and capital-intensive, concrete-heavy water infrastructure development articulate in practice. After 70 years of proposals and planning, the Regional Government of Piura began construction of the mega-irrigation project, Proyecto Especial de Irrigación e Hidroeléctrico del Alto Piura (PEIHAP) in 2013. PEIHAP, which will irrigate an additional 19,000 hectares (ha), is being realised in the wake of major reforms in the Chira-Piura River Basin, a pilot basin for the IWRM-inspired 2009 Water Resources Law. We first map the historical trajectory of PEIHAP as it mirrors the shifting political priorities of the Peruvian state. We then draw on interviews with the newly formed River Basin Council, regional government, PEIHAP, and civil society actors to understand why and how these differing water management paradigms coexist. We find that while the 2009 Water Resources Law labels large-scale irrigation infrastructure as an 'exceptional measure', this development continues to eclipse IWRM provisions of the new law. This uneasy coexistence reflects the parallel desires of the state to imbue water policy reform with international credibility via IWRM while also furthering economic development goals via large-scale water infrastructure. While the participatory mechanisms and expertise of IWRM-inspired river basin councils have not been brought to bear on the approval and construction of PEIHAP, these institutions will play a crucial role in managing the myriad resource and social conflicts that are likely to result.

KEYWORDS: Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), large-scale water infrastructure, Peru


The São Francisco interbasin water transfer in Brazil: Tribulations of a megaproject through constraints and controversy

Philippe Roman
IHEAL-CREDA (Institute of Latin American Studies), Paris, France

ABSTRACT: This paper describes the complex social, political and economic dynamics that led the Brazilian government to launch one of the biggest hydraulic infrastructure projects in the country’s history: the transposição do São Francisco (transfer of the waters of the São Francisco River), a large-scale diversion scheme to transfer water from the São Francisco River Basin to semiarid areas of the Northeastern Region. This massive interbasin water transfer, first idealised in the nineteenth century, was turned into reality under Lula’s presidency, at a time when the Brazilian economy was booming and a left-leaning neo-developmentalist coalition had seized power. Such a controversial project has fuelled criticism from a wide social and political spectrum. Between 2005 and 2007, when the conflict was at its highest, large parts of society mobilised against the project, which makes the transposição one of the most remarkable socioenvironmental conflicts in the history of Brazil. The project was given the green light at a moment when water governance was undergoing a process of institutional reorganisation officially aiming at the implementation of more democratic procedures and of integrated governance principles. So, it can be viewed as an anachronism of the 'hydraulic mission' with its supply-side technocratic engineering solutions. But it can also be considered as a legitimate and necessary piece of water development, in an emerging country with acute regional water imbalances, that is to benefit a historically underprivileged region (the Northeast). Beyond such simplistic views, we will try to disentangle the complex nexus of political and economic interests and of conflicting discourses related to the extremely diverse set of actors that have played a role in the project, and thereby try to understand why, after more than a century of debate, the transposição has finally become a (still heatedly debated) reality.

KEYWORDS: Interbasin water transfer, megaproject, socioenvironmental conflict, neodevelopmentalism, São Francisco River, Brazil


Piping water from rural counties to fuel growth in Las Vegas, Nevada: Water transfer risks in the arid USA West

Lisa W. Welsh
Utah State University, Department of Environment and Society, Logan, Utah, USA

Joanna Endter-Wada
Utah State University, Department of Environment and Society, Logan, Utah, USA

ABSTRACT: The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) plans to build a 300-mile pipeline to transfer groundwater from five rural basins in north-eastern Nevada south to the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area. Relying on the path dependence literature, we trace the policy choices and legal battles that have led to southern Nevada’s proposed Groundwater Development Project. We find that policy decisions over time, often initiated by powerful water policy entrepreneurs, have fuelled southern Nevada’s rapid growth and development. After emphasising water demand management for more than two decades, SNWA has revived its controversial plans to increase water supplies by importing water from rural areas. Using semi-structured key-informant interviews and document analysis of water right hearing transcripts, public comments, and hearing rulings, we examine the risks and uncertainties involved in SNWA’s Groundwater Development Project. SNWA and the protestors of the project experience different aspects of risk and uncertainty. SNWA believes the Groundwater Development Project is an essential addition to its current water strategy to reduce the political and economic risks from Colorado River shortages that could endanger southern Nevada’s longer-term economic survival. Protestors believe the uncertainty of SNWA’s mitigation and management plans are inadequate to protect rural basins from the long-term ecological and hydrological risks and uncertainties associated with SNWA’s pumping and export of groundwater from their areas. Our analysis reveals a much deeper and longer path dependence trajectory in the USA West of overpopulating an arid region, subsidising decades of infrastructure development to promote economic development, and creating dependencies on increasingly scarce water supplies. A paradigm shift much larger than water demand management is required to reverse this trajectory and deal with the dilemmas of unabated growth in desert metropolitan areas dependent on distant water sources.

KEYWORDS: Path dependence, water infrastructure, policy entrepreneurs, risk assessment, Las Vegas, USA


A new era of big infrastructure? (Re)developing water storage in the U.S. West in the context of climate change and environmental regulation

Denielle M. Perry
Department of Geography, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA

Sarah J. Praskievicz
Department of Geography, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

ABSTRACT: For most of the 20th century, water policy in the western United States was driven by the construction of large dams and other big infrastructural projects to increase water storage. By the 1980s, however, most optimal sites were developed or protected through conservation policies. Today, climate change and growing water demands pose new challenges for water management. Consequently, policy-makers are once again advocating for water storage. In the U.S. and other developed countries, this return to supply-side solutions is manifesting in auxiliary infrastructural projects such as dam augmentation and aquifer storage and recovery (ASR). We argue that the return to a high-modernist reliance on big infrastructure is not limited to developing countries and illustrate the rise of auxiliary infrastructure using two case studies in California and Oregon. Our analysis suggests these auxiliary infrastructural projects are appealing to water managers because they purport to accommodate the demand for new water-governance strategies while working within the limitations imposed by past infrastructural development and environmental policy. Nevertheless, increasing storage capacity alone is insufficient for water management in the context of climate change, for demand-side strategies must also be pursued.

KEYWORDS: Political ecology, climate change, adaptation, conservation policy, water governance, infrastructure


Muddy waters: International actors and transboundary water cooperation in the Ganges-Brahmaputra problemshed

Paula Hanasz
Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

ABSTRACT: The portion of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin shared between Nepal, Bhutan, northern India, and Bangladesh is one of the poorest, most densely populated, ecologically vulnerable, and socially and politically unstable areas in the world. As such, reducing the potential for transboundary water conflict by increasing cooperation between riparian states has been of increasing interest to policy-makers and foreign aid donors.The World Bank-led South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI) commenced in the mid-2000s. Yet, in more than a decade of existence, neither SAWI nor other international initiatives, have been able to improve transboundary water interactions between India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. In part this is because of the sheer complexity of transboundary water governance, and in part because of contextual factors. Addressing transboundary water issues is not a priority for the riparian states; there is significant distrust between them and resentment about India’s hydro-hegemony; and bilateral, rather than multilateral, arrangements prevail. These factors make collective action both more urgent and more difficult. If they are to increase transboundary water cooperation, international actors should, among other things, resolve historical grievances; strengthen water-sharing institutions; build trust between riparian states; and work toward outcomes based on principles of water justice.

KEYWORDS: Water conflict, water governance, foreign aid and investment, World Bank, South Asia


Muddy waters: International actors and transboundary water cooperation in the Ganges-Brahmaputra problemshed

Paula Hanasz
Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

ABSTRACT: The portion of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin shared between Nepal, Bhutan, northern India, and Bangladesh is one of the poorest, most densely populated, ecologically vulnerable, and socially and politically unstable areas in the world. As such, reducing the potential for transboundary water conflict by increasing cooperation between riparian states has been of increasing interest to policy-makers and foreign aid donors.
The World Bank-led South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI) commenced in the mid-2000s. Yet, in more than a decade of existence, neither SAWI nor other international initiatives, have been able to improve transboundary water interactions between India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. In part this is because of the sheer complexity of transboundary water governance, and in part because of contextual factors. Addressing transboundary water issues is not a priority for the riparian states; there is significant distrust between them and resentment about India’s hydro-hegemony; and bilateral, rather than multilateral, arrangements prevail. These factors make collective action both more urgent and more difficult. If they are to increase transboundary water cooperation, international actors should, among other things, resolve historical grievances; strengthen water-sharing institutions; build trust between riparian states; and work toward outcomes based on principles of water justice.

KEYWORDS: Water conflict, water governance, foreign aid and investment, World Bank, South Asia


Urban drainage in Barcelona: From hazard to resource?

David Saurí
Departament de Geografia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain

Laura Palau-Rof
Departament de Geografia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain

ABSTRACT: Our objective in this paper is to trace the historical trajectory of urban drainage in Barcelona from the 19th century to the present highlighting the main changes in approach, from the 'everything down the drain' philosophy of the 19th century to the sustainable urban drainage systems of the early 21st century. In this trajectory we identify four main historical periods. The first period corresponds to the 'Garcia Faria Plan' of the late 19th century which initiated the construction of modern drainage in Barcelona. The second period, lasting for much of the 20th century, showed the expansion of the centralised sewer system that, however, could not solve the chronic problems of flooding and pollution created by fast urbanisation. The third period, governed by the Olympic Games of 1992 and the rehabilitation of the beach front, entailed a massive reconfiguration of the sewer system now connected to wastewater treatment plants and enhanced with a number of large underground stormwater reservoirs. Finally, since the early 2000s, urban drainage is increasingly adopting decentralised, small-scale solutions to drainage such as Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). While signs of the transition towards a more sustainable approach to urban drainage are already present, the conventional approach remains strong and appears to be evolving also towards more sustainable solutions. Hence, system coexistence rather than substitution appears to be the outcome of the transition in urban drainage in this city.

KEYWORDS: Urban drainage, history, security, sustainability, Barcelona


Resource recovery and reuse as an incentive for a more viable sanitation service chain

Krishna C. Rao
Business Model Analysis and Enterprise Development, International Water Management Institute, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka

Miriam Otoo
Business Model Analysis and Enterprise Development, International Water Management Institute, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka

Pay Drechsel
Resource Recovery, Water Quality and Health, International Water Management Institute, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka

Munir A. Hanjra
c/o International Water Management Institute, Pretoria, South Africa

ABSTRACT: Recovering nutrients, water and energy from domestic waste streams, including wastewater and faecal sludge, is slowly gaining momentum in low-income countries. Resource recovery and reuse (RRR) offers value beyond environmental benefits through cost recovery. An expected game changer in sanitation service provision is a business model where benefits accrued via RRR can support upstream sanitation services despite the multitude of private and public stakeholders involved from waste collection to treatment. This paper shows options of how resource recovery and reuse can be an incentive for the sustainable sanitation service chain, by recovering costs where revenue can feed back internally or using generated revenues from reuse to fill financial gaps across the service chain to complement other supporting mechanisms for making waste management more attractive.

KEYWORDS: Faecal sludge, resource recovery, business models, cost recovery, waste treatment



Who carries the weight of water? Fetching water in rural and urban areas and the implications for water security

Jo-Anne Geere
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

Moa Cortobius
UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Stockholm, Sweden

ABSTRACT: The global burden of fetching water, particularly its effects on individuals and societies, is largely unknown because comparative analysis of the global data available is incomplete and scarce. To address this information gap, this article presents a synthesis of the data on water-fetching from households in 23 countries. In rural areas of the dataset almost 50% of the population still have to bring water from a source outside of their home or yard. Women generally carry the main responsibility for fetching water; however, in many countries and in particular in urban areas, men also take on a great share of this work. The mean single trip time to collect water ranges from 10 to 65 minutes in urban areas with an average increase or decrease of 2 to 13 minutes in rural areas. Further, up to 60% of children support the collection of wood and water, in some countries spending up to 11.3 hours per week. Water fetching continues to have the greatest impact on women and children in poorer rural areas and is likely to be a substantial barrier to household water security and sustainable development in regions most in need of sustainable development.

KEYWORDS: Water fetching, MICs surveys, global data, time, health impacts


Characteristics of stakeholder networks supporting local government performance improvements in rural water supply: Cases from Ghana, Malawi, and Bolivia

Duncan McNicholl
Cambridge University, Department of Engineering, Cambridge, UK

Allan McRobie
Cambridge University, Department of Engineering, Cambridge, UK

Heather Cruickshank
Independent Consultant

ABSTRACT: A study of local governments in Ghana, Malawi, and Bolivia applies social network analysis to identify characteristics of stakeholder networks supporting performance improvements in these institutions. Seven local governments that have demonstrated performance improvements are studied. Network analysis is combined with qualitative analysis of a commentary from primary interviews with stakeholders in these networks to identify characteristics that are observable from a network perspective and perceived as important by stakeholders active in these networks. Three network characteristics are identified in multiple cases as supporting improvements in local government performance. The first network characteristic is multiple information and skill ties between a local government and other local stakeholders including communities and operators. The second network characteristic is strong information and skill ties between a local government and higher levels of sector hierarchy. The third characteristic is coordination between stakeholders at higher levels of sector hierarchy that have strong information and skill ties with a local government. Strong information and skill ties between these support providers can help them to coordinate their efforts to collaboratively support local governments. These three characteristics can be used to analyse other stakeholder networks around local governments to identify where certain relationships that might support institutional development are missing.

KEYWORDS: Social network analysis, local government, institutional development, rural water supply


Nation-building, industrialisation, and spectacle: Political functions of Gujarat’s Narmada pipeline project

Mona Luxion
School of Urban Planning, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada

ABSTRACT: Since 2000 the Indian state of Gujarat has been working to construct a state-wide water grid to connect 75% of its approximately 60 million urban and rural residents to drinking water sourced from the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River. This project represents a massive undertaking – it is billed as the largest drinking water project in the world – and is part of a broader predilection toward large, concrete-heavy supply-side solutions to water insecurity across present-day India. This paper tracks the claims and narratives used to promote the project, the political context in which it has emerged, the purposes it serves and, following Ferguson (1990), the functioning of the discursive-bureaucratic 'machine' of which it is a product.
The dam’s reinvention as the solution to Gujarat’s drinking water shortfall – increasingly for cities and Special Industrial Regions – reflects a concern with attracting and retaining foreign investment through the creation of so-called 'world-class' infrastructure. At the same time, this reinvention has contributed to a project of nation-building, while remaining cloaked in a discourse of technological neutrality. The heavy infrastructure renders visible Gujarat’s commitment to 'development' even when that promise has yet to be realised for many, while the promise of Narmada water gives Gujarat’s leaders political capital with favoured investors and political supporters. In conclusion, I suggest that the success of infrastructure mega-projects as a political tool is not intrinsically tied to their ability to achieve their technical and social objectives. Instead, the 'spectacle' of ambitious infrastructural development projects may well yield political gains that outweigh, for a time, the real-world costs of their inequity and unsustainability.

KEYWORDS: Development, Sardar Sarovar Dam, Narmada pipeline project, anti-politics, Gujarat



Viewpoint – taking a multidimensional approach to small town water supply: The case of Paikgachha

Imrul Kayes Muniruzzaman
Director – Fundraising and Learning, WaterAid Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Shahrukh Mirza
Strategic Support Specialist, WaterAid Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Khairul Islam
Country Director, WaterAid Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Kolimullah Koli
Independent Consultant

ABSTRACT: Ensuring access to safe drinking water in climate-vulnerable southwest Bangladesh is a growing challenge. People living in the coastal municipality town of Paikgachha in Khulna District are suffering from an acute crisis of drinking water due to contamination of groundwater by salinity, iron and arsenic. WaterAid Bangladesh piloted a piped water supply model with a progressive tariff approach that brings residents, especially the poor, safe and affordable water, while ensuring financial sustainability of the model. This paper discusses how the multidimensional approach underlying the development of the piped water system successfully addressed the social and institutional dimensions of water supply in a context involving multiple stressors. The initiative has demonstrated that sustainable service with full cost recovery is possible while addressing equity issues in the challenging circumstances of Bangladesh’s coast.

KEYWORDS: water supply, piped water, small town, progressive tariff, sociotechnical approach, Bangladesh


Clean energy and water conflicts: Contested narratives of small hydropower in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental

Noah Silber-Coats
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

ABSTRACT: Small hydropower is poised to undergo a global boom, potentially accounting for as much as 75% of new hydroelectric installations over the next two decades. There are extensive bodies of literature arguing both that small hydropower is an environmentally benign technology benefitting rural communities, and, conversely, that unchecked small hydro development is a potential environmental calamity with dire consequences for rivers and those who depend upon them. Despite this debate, few studies have considered the ways in which small hydropower is socially constructed in the sites targeted for its development.This paper focuses on the Bobos-Nautla River Basin, in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Mexico, where numerous small hydropower projects are planned. The central argument is that the dominant framing of small hydropower in Mexico focuses on claimed benefits of 'clean' energy, sidelining any consideration of impacts on water resources and local environments. However, even if this narrative has dominated policy-making, it is being actively contested by a social movement that constructs these projects as water theft.The narratives surrounding small hydropower are reconstructed from interviews with government officials, activists, NGO workers and residents of communities near project sites conducted during ten weeks of fieldwork in 2014. The results of this fieldwork are contextualised by an overview of evolving trends in hydropower governance globally that situates the boom in small hydro within shifting relationships between states, international financial institutions, and private finance, as well as an historical account of the evolution of hydropower governance in Mexico that speaks to long-standing conflicts over water use for hydroelectric generation.

KEYWORDS: Hydropower, institutions, governance, environmental politics, Mexico


The impact of 'zero' coming into fashion: Zero liquid discharge uptake and socio-technical transitions in Tirupur

Jenny Grönwall
Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Stockholm, Sweden

Anna C. Jonsson
Division of Environmental Change, Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

ABSTRACT: The textile industry is one of the major industrial polluters, and water recycling is yet far from being standard practice. Wastewater generation remains a serious and growing problem, affecting ecosystems, human health and freshwater availability for other uses. India is the world’s third largest exporter of textiles and the sector directly employs 45 million people. This case study explores the socio-technical transition of Tirupur, a textile cluster dubbed as the first in India to shift to 'zero liquid discharge' (ZLD) in a systematic manner. It traces a path towards increased environmental sustainability that takes off in a time characterised by no effluent treatment, to the advanced approach to wastewater handling that was the norm in 2016. By adding a multi-scalar perspective, light is shed on where the system changes emerged that inspired key actors during various phases of the defining 35 years.
The process towards ZLD becoming best practice involves conflicts, adaptation, resistance, and vast socioeconomic losses. Eventually, innovative ideas and artefacts replaced old practices, and effluent discharge has become a symbol of noncompliance. Farmers’ movements, authority directions and court orders drove the development, which came to inform a policy shift to mainstream water recovery in the textiles industry.

KEYWORDS: Zero liquid discharge, sustainable textiles, water recycling, wastewater treatment, Tirupur, India


Crafting adaptive capacity: institutional bricolage in adaptation to urban flooding in greater Accra

Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky
Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin; Germany; IRI THESys, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Department of Geography, King’s College London, UK

ABSTRACT: Institutional bricolage, which explains how institutions are actively crafted across different degrees of formality, and urban adaptation have been studied separately in the past. Linking critical institutionalism and adaptive capacity research, this article describes how institutional bricolage shapes the distribution of adaptive capacity in adaptation to urban flooding. The Densu delta in Greater Accra, Ghana, is taken as a case of a rapidly urbanising area in coastal West-Africa. Interviews and stakeholder mappings show that institutional bricolage shapes who is likely to adapt to urban flooding and who isn’t, as well as where people are likely to adapt and where they are not. Interviews moreover provided evidence of the distribution of adaptive capacity in dynamic water governance contexts that are characteristic of urban areas particularly in Africa. The role of the traditional 'chief' is shown to be a dynamic institution that can contribute to or hinder adaptation to urban flooding, depending on his own world views and institutional context. Four new findings emerge. Firstly, key elements of bricolage foster the decisive role of chieftaincy structures in adaptation to urban flooding in the local context of a West-African city. Secondly, institutional bricolage exposes the role of culture in adaptive capacity. Thirdly, applying institutional bricolage in the setting of a rapidly urbanizing flood-prone area offers new perspectives on both institutions and adaptation in urban water and risk governance. Fourthly, a bricolage analysis enables incorporating different forms of knowledge towards transformative adaptation.

KEYWORDS: Flood, transformative adaptation, critical institutionalism, urban water, African cities


The techno-politics of big infrastructure and the Chinese water machine

Britt Crow-Miller
School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

Michael Webber
School of Geography, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Sarah Rogers
Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, The University of Melbourne, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

ABSTRACT: Despite widespread recognition of the problems caused by relying on engineering approaches to water management issues, since 2000 China has raised its commitment to a concrete-heavy approach to water management. While, historically, China’s embrace of modernist water management could be understood as part of a broader set of ideas about controlling nature, in the post-reform era this philosophical view has merged with a technocratic vision of national development. In the past two decades, a Chinese Water Machine has coalesced: the institutional embodiment of China’s commitment to large infrastructure. The technocratic vision of the political and economic elite at the helm of this Machine has been manifest in the form of some of the world’s largest water infrastructure projects, including the Three Gorges Dam and the South-North Water Transfer Project, and in the exporting of China’s vision of concrete-heavy development beyond its own borders. This paper argues that China’s approach to water management is best described as a techno-political regime that extends well beyond infrastructure, and is fundamentally shaped by both past choices and current political-economic conditions. Emerging from this regime, the Chinese Water Machine is one of the forces driving the (re)turn to big water infrastructure globally.

KEYWORDS: Water development, infrastructure, techno-politics, South-North Transfer, China


Understanding the allure of big infrastructure: Jakarta’s Great Garuda Sea Wall Project

Emma Colven
Department of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

ABSTRACT: In response to severe flooding in Jakarta, a consortium of Dutch firms in collaboration with the Indonesian government has designed the 'Great Garuda Sea Wall' project. The master plan proposes to construct a sea wall to enclose Jakarta Bay. A new waterfront city will be built on over 1000 hectares (ha) of reclaimed land in the shape of the Garuda, Indonesia’s national symbol. By redeveloping North Jakarta, the project promises to realise the world-class city aspirations of Indonesia’s political elites. Heavily reliant on hydrological engineering, hard infrastructure and private capital, the project has been presented by proponents as the optimum way to protect the city from flooding. The project retains its allure among political elites despite not directly addressing land subsidence, understood to be a primary cause of flooding. I demonstrate how this project is driven by a techno-political network that brings together political and economic interests, world-class city discourses, engineering expertise, colonial histories, and postcolonial relations between Jakarta and the Netherlands. Due in part to this network, big infrastructure has long constituted the preferred state response to flooding in Jakarta. I thus make a case for provincialising narratives that claim we are witnessing a return to big infrastructure in water management.

KEYWORDS: Flood mitigation, Global South, infrastructure, hydrological engineering, urban flooding, Indonesia


The anti-flood detention basin projects in northern Italy. New wine in old bottles?

Giorgio Osti
Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

ABSTRACT: An increased number of floods have affected the thick urban network located in Northern Italy. The towns traversed by the many rivers descending from the Alps and Apennines must address the problem of retarding water overflow. Detention basins have been envisaged as a good means to achieve more secure protection against floods for thick urban settings.
In Italy, flood prevention policies have been partially decentralized to regions. In this study, the literature on political economy, policy analysis and governance is used to frame the planning and implementation of detention basins. Each approach raises questions on whether and how detention basins represent a return to hard water infrastructures. Three ongoing detention basin projects located in northern Italy have been chosen to illustrate the coalition of interests that support this policy of flood prevention. The selection of cases and their analysis are based on a comparative method considering both similarities and differences between detention basins.
Although governance is highlighted in official documents regarding water policies, this approach has been followed to a very limited extent. The traditional policy community has been able to maintain leadership on projects, including a limited amount of new disciplines and expertise. Moreover, the emphasis on planning expertise creates some space for the governmentality approach. Overall, detention basins represent not a return to heavy infrastructures, but a continuation of traditional intervention methods with small greening changes. However, margins for a softer policy are possible through either recovering old containers/floodplains or developing a network of farm ponds and minor dikes.

KEYWORDS: Flood prevention, detention basin, policy community, governance, Italian Regions



On the need for system alignment in large water infrastructure: Understanding infrastructure dynamics in Nairobi, Kenya

Pär Blomkvist
Department for Industrial Economics and Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

David Nilsson
Department for Philosophy and History, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

ABSTRACT: In this article we contribute to the discussion of infrastructural change in Africa, and explore how a new theoretical perspective may offer a different, more comprehensive and historically informed understanding of the trend towards large water infrastructure in Africa. We examine the socio-technical dynamics of large water infrastructures in Nairobi, Kenya, in a longer historical perspective using two concepts that we call intra-systemic alignment and inter-level alignment. Our theoretical perspective is inspired by Large Technical Systems (LTS) and Multi-Level Perspective (MLP). While inter-level alignment focuses on the process of aligning the technological system at the three levels of niche, regime and landscape, intra-systemic alignment deals with how components within the regime are harmonised and standardised to fit with each other. We pay special attention to intra-systemic alignment between the supply side and the demand side, or as we put it, upstream and downstream components of a system. In narrating the history of water supply in Nairobi, we look at both the upstream (large-scale supply) and downstream activities (distribution and payment), and compare the Nairobi case with European history of large infrastructures. We emphasise that regime actors in Nairobi have dealt with the issues of alignment mainly to facilitate and expand upstream activities, while concerning downstream activities they have remained incapable of expanding service and thus integrating the large segment of low-income consumers. We conclude that the present surge of large-scale water investment in Nairobi is the result of sector reforms that enabled the return to a long tradition – a 'Nairobi style' – of upstream investment mainly benefitting the high-income earners. Our proposition is that much more attention needs to be directed at inter-level alignment at the downstream end of the system, to allow the creation of niches aligned to the regime.

KEYWORDS: Water development, infrastructure, developing countries, development policy, Large Technical Systems (LTS), Multi-Level Perspective (MLP), Kenya


State transformation and policy networks: The challenging implementation of new water policy paradigms in post-apartheid South Africa

Magalie Bourblanc
Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), UMR G-Eau, Montpellier, France; and GovInn, Department of Political Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa

ABSTRACT: For many years, South Africa had represented a typical example of a hydrocracy. Following the democratic transition in South Africa, however, new policy paradigms emerged, supported by new political elites from the ANC. A reform of the water policy was one of the priorities of the new Government, but with little experience in water management, they largely relied on 'international best practices' in the water sector, although some of these international principles did not perfectly fit the South African water sector landscape. In parallel, a reform called 'transformation' took place across all public organisations with the aim of allowing public administrations to better reflect the racial components in South African society. As a result, civil engineers lost most of their power within the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation (DWS). However, despite these changes, demand-side management has had difficulties in materializing on the ground. The paper aims at discussing the resilience of supply-side management within the Ministry, despite its new policy orientation. Using a policy network concept, the paper shows that the supply-side approach still prevails today, due to the outsourcing of most DWS tasks to consulting firms with whom DWS engineers have nourished a privileged relationship since the 1980s. The article uses the decision-making process around the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase 2 as an emblematic case study to illustrate such developments. This policy network, which has enjoyed so much influence over DWS policies and daily activities, is now being contested. As a consequence, we argue that the fate of the LHWP Phase 2 is ultimately linked to a competition between this policy network and a political one.

KEYWORDS: Policy network, State transformation, water demand management, hydraulic mission, South Africa


Old wine in new bottles: The adaptive capacity of the hydraulic mission in Ecuador

Jeroen F. Warner
Sociology of Development and Change Group, Wageningen University

Jaime Hoogesteger
Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University

Juan Pablo Hidalgo
Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA), University of Amsterdam

ABSTRACT: Despite a widely embraced ecological turn and strident critique of megastructures in the 1990s, construction of large infrastructure has been reignited worldwide. While Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and River Basin Management (RBM) have at least discursively held sway as the dominant paradigm in water management since the late 1990s, we argue that the 'hydraulic mission' never really went away and has in some places energetically re-emerged. The development discourse that justified many dams in the past is now supplemented by a new set of appealing justifiers. With the help of the case of Ecuador we show that the hegemonic project of the hydraulic mission has a great discursive adaptive capacity and a new set of allies. The rise of the BRICS (especially China), South-South cooperation and private investors provides non-traditional sources of funding, making the construction of hydraulic infrastructure less dependent on Western conditionalities. The resulting governance picture highlights the disconnect between the still widely embraced policy discourse of IWRM/RBM and the drivers and practices of the hydraulic mission; questioning what value international calls for 'good water governance' have in the midst of new discourses, broader transnational political projects and the powerful dam-building alliances that underlie them.

KEYWORDS: Hydraulic mission, hydropower dams, buen vivir/sumak kawsay, Ecuador


Water management in Mexico. From concrete-heavy persistence to community-based resistance

Cindy McCulligh
Centre for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Darcy Tetreault
Department of Development Studies, Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Zacatecas; Mexico

ABSTRACT: According to Mexico’s National Water Commission (CONAGUA), after dominating for 50 years, supply-side policies were replaced by demand management in the 1980s, and this focus has been superseded by 'sustainability'-oriented policies since the turn of the century, combined with greater participation in decision-making. Despite a discursive turn to demand management and a recognition of increasing environmental degradation, in this article we argue that a focus on 'concrete-heavy' projects persists, with increased private-sector participation and facing increased resistance from local communities. From the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s, dam construction flourished in Mexico, not only for irrigation but increasingly for hydroelectricity and urban water supply. Since the adoption of neoliberal economic policies, from the late 1980s onward, public investment in hydraulic infrastructure has decreased but we argue that the water management model has not shifted significantly in terms of its penchant for building large dams. We review socio-environmental conflicts resulting from hydraulic infrastructure projects since the turn of the century, and analyse in greater detail the case of the Zapotillo Dam in Jalisco. We argue that these conflicts highlight the reluctance of government water authorities to shift away from water management centred on supply through large infrastructure projects, and linked to ideas of progress and development. These conflicts also highlight the increasing dissonance between official state discourse, with its stress on ecological sustainability and political participation, and the actual orientation of water policies and projects.

KEYWORDS: Water management, dams, socio-environmental conflicts, Mexico