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South Asian dams at a tipping point? The case of Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur, India

Thounaojam Somokanta
Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel; somocug@gmail.com

Eran Feitelson
Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel; efeitelson@gmail.com

Amit Tubi
Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel; amit.tubi@mail.huji.ac.il

ABSTRACT: While dam building has declined in most developed economies, it has seen an increase in emerging economies, particularly in East and South Asia. Even there, however, such dams are facing mounting opposition. This raises the prospect that dam building is nearing a global tipping point. In this study, we examine the case of the Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur, one of the states in India's peripheral northeast. We ask how such a major project was stopped despite support from powerful national- and regional-level actors. To analyse this case, we build on the Advocacy Coalition Framework and the analytical concepts of growth coalitions and discourse coalitions. The joint application of these concepts enables us to link global advocacy coalitions with local pro- and anti-growth coalitions through the storylines they advance, thereby formulating multiscalar discourse coalitions. This allows us to follow the struggles between pro-dam and anti-dam coalitions, as well as trace the shifts in the composition and focus of coalitions over the 75 years since the Tipaimukh Dam was first proposed.

KEYWORDS: Water, emerging economies, discourse coalitions, storylines, Indigenous people, India