Folder issue3



Governing pandemic waterscapes: Covid-19 and Nairobi metropolitan services as co-catalysts of waterscape changes

Sophie Schramm
International Planning Studies research group, International Planning Studies, Department of Spatial Planning, TU Dortmund, Germany;

Moritz Kasper
International Planning Studies, Department of Spatial Planning, TU Dortmund, Germany;

Simon Bohlen
International Planning Studies, Department of Spatial Planning, TU Dortmund, Germany;

Emmanuel Mwenje
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya;

Elizabeth Wamuchiru
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya;

ABSTRACT: The Covid-19 pandemic and the initial focus on handwashing measures have highlighted the importance of water access as an essential service in protecting public health. Although handwashing was ultimately deemed less relevant in curbing transmissions of the airborne SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) virus, the pandemic presented a dilemma for water providers and residents in water-deprived urban areas as they had to adhere to new hygiene standards and requirements with limited water access. As such, a deeper understanding of pandemic urban waterscapes – infrastructure, governance systems, technologies, and everyday practices – is necessary for ongoing debates on (post)pandemic or zoonotic cities. We therefore focus on changes in urban (water) governance and government water projects in Nairobi since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. We show that Covid-19 has contributed to changes in Nairobi’s waterscape, though only in conjunction with recent changes in the city’s overall governance structure. Whether these waterscape changes will lead to greater equity in water access or have a long-lasting impact in alleviating water deprivation in sections of the city is more than questionable.

KEYWORDS: Urban waterscape, Covid-19, boreholes, urban governance, Nairobi, Kenya


Affective hydropolitics: Introduction to the Themed Section

Jenniver Sehring
Department of Water Governance, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands;

Aaron T. Wolf
Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA;

ABSTRACT: Decision-making and negotiations on transboundary waters are often presented as rational, state-led processes. In that context, 'hydropolitics' refers to the dynamics of interstate relations regarding transboundary water resources, which are analysed at length in the literature. This paper adds a discussion of the (apparently) non-rational components that are more rarely considered: how the governance of international waters is impacted by emotions, spirituality, identity, trust or personal bonds. This introduction surveys the evolution of affective hydropolitics in both academic literature and in practice and recognises that, though these components have always been present in water diplomacy, the positionality of (mostly Western) researchers has precluded their ready assessment. To showcase the multi-level relevance of affective aspects for water politics, we draw on literature from political ecology and international relations. Based on this, we outline some general propositions and (future) research questions on the role of affective aspects in hydropolitics and water diplomacy. The contributions of the themed section show the role of emotion in negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the effect of group identity among representatives of Central Asian countries when mitigating tensions in the Aral Basin. The papers in this section further offer a conceptualisation of trust and trust-building in water diplomacy processes and explore how the personal spirituality of the individuals who negotiate international waters influences their approach. We are hopeful that shining an academic light on the human, emotional (non-rational) factors affecting those engaged in hydropolitics will help deepen our understanding of these critical and complex processes.

KEYWORDS: Water diplomacy, water conflict, water cooperation, emotional turn, decolonial


Trust in transboundary waters: Identifying trust-building in water diplomacy literature

Marko Keskinen
Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland;

Elina Häkkinen
Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland; and Finnish Environment Institute (Syke), Helsinki, Finland;

Juho Haapala
Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland;

Bota Sharipova
Water Governance department, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: Trust-building, one of the key tools in diplomatic negotiations and peace processes, is an essential way to promote cooperation over transboundary waters shared by several countries. Combining water-related know-how with diplomatic mechanisms and foreign policy, water diplomacy provides a particularly relevant context in which to approach trust over transboundary waters. This paper examines trust and trust-building activities in literature related to water diplomacy, linking them to conceptualisations of trust in the fields of international relations and natural resource management. The reviewed publications and key-informant interviews emphasise the importance of trust in water diplomacy processes. The literature and interviews also allow us to identify ten categories of potential trust-building activities in water diplomacy. Based on this, we propose a basic conceptualisation for approaching trust and trust-building in water diplomacy. The findings indicate that, while trust is considered an important element in water diplomacy processes, the discussion would benefit from a more systematic approach. At the same time, water diplomacy processes provide a unique context for studying the role of trust and trust-building in international relations.

KEYWORDS: Water diplomacy, transboundary waters, shared waters, water cooperation, trust, trust-building, international relations, natural resource management


Exploring spirituality in water diplomacy

Sharoma Ramawadh
Independent Researcher, Almere, Netherlands;

Diego Jara
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Bonn, Germany;

Aaron T. Wolf
Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA;

Jenniver Sehring
Department of Water Governance, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, The Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: In the academic literature, the assessment of water diplomacy processes has generally focused on rational factors; some studies, however, have shown that these are not the only driving force in transboundary water negotiations. The role of the affective aspects of transboundary water negotiations is often undervalued and overlooked. Such aspects include emotions, trust, religion, the relationship between body and mind, and the connection with nature. The research presented here explores if and how the spiritual beliefs and practices of individuals engaged in water diplomacy play a role. It builds on a review of the literature on spirituality and engages in qualitative interviews with water diplomats. The conceptualisation of spirituality and water diplomacy is applied to the lived experiences of water diplomacy practitioners in order to assess the role of spiritual beliefs and practices in transboundary negotiations. Fifteen professionals were interviewed about their personal, self-defined spiritual beliefs and practices and the role they perceived them to play in water diplomacy processes. The spiritual practices they identified included meditation, prayers, reading sacred texts, and emotional intelligence practices such as managing emotions (self-management), active listening, effective communication, and self-awareness. The research mainly found that spiritual beliefs and practices can play a role in the preparation of meetings on a personal level, for example through prayers, meditation, and self-centring. During the negotiation process itself, spiritual practices are more implicit and internal. Spiritual practices can provide an alternative to, or can complement, classical approaches to water negotiations. Negotiators’ internal spiritual practice may manifest itself in more positive and/or less reactive negotiation processes. Creating more room for spirituality in the negotiation setting gives negotiators with a spiritual background more opportunity to bring in their spiritual beliefs and practices. This can unlock new ways of negotiating, which can potentially lead to more equity in the allocation of water resources.

KEYWORDS: Spirituality, water diplomacy, water negotiations, spiritual practices, spiritual beliefs


Geographies of infrastructure: Everyday governance of urban water supply beyond the utility network in Dar es Salaam

Francis Dakyaga
Ardhi, University Dar es Salaam, TU-Dortmund, Germany, and SD University of Business and Integrated Development Studies, Ghana, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania;

Sophie Schramm
International Planning Studies (IPS), TU-Dortmund, Germany, Dortmund, Germany;

John. M. Lupala
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania;

Dawah Lulu Magembe-Mushi
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania;

ABSTRACT: Due to uneven networked water coverage in the Global South, varied water infrastructures operate beyond utility networks to serve denizens in Global South cities. This study proposes a framework of governance modalities, actors, and interactions to analyse the governance of heterogeneous non-network water infrastructures in Dar es Salaam. This framework builds on existing literature on urban water infrastructure, everyday practices, and governance. The paper demonstrates the coexistence of private water networks, self-supply systems, and communal and hydro-mobile infrastructure that enable water collection beyond utilities. Multiple governance modalities, including co-production, self-governance, market-oriented governance, co-governance, and networked governance, control these infrastructures. Hybrid governance arrangements produce interdependent infrastructures that challenge utility’s efforts by supplying water to suburbs beyond the utility’s pipes. However, diverse actors and powers, conflicting responsibilities, and (in)formal regulatory mechanisms are still embodied in these modalities. This can result in (un)even water distribution among urbanites and across urban spaces.

KEYWORDS: (In)formality, heterogeneous infrastructure, governance, Dar es Salaam, Global South


Central Asian water neighbourhood: A constructivist reconceptualisation of hydropolitics in Central Asia

Timur Dadabaev
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tsukuba, Japan;

Jenniver Sehring
Water Governance and Diplomacy, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft; The Netherlands;

Nigora Djalilova
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tsukuba, Japan;

ABSTRACT: Transboundary water conflict and cooperation are often conceptualised through the premises of national sovereignty and national interests, which leads to transboundary collaboration being perceived as detrimental to (rational) sovereign state interests. For Central Asia, this perspective has led to a preoccupation by Western, rationalist IR theorists with conflict scenarios that have not occurred. In this paper, we apply a constructivist approach to understanding Central Asian hydropolitics and relate it to the discussion of emotional aspects of international relations. We do so through an analysis of the interconnection between the ideas of 'neighbourhood' and 'nationhood' in Central Asia, through the notions of brotherhood/fraternity and informal collective decision-making for joint water management. These two aspects can explain why – even in years of political tensions and heated rhetoric around water – an understanding persisted that water issues cannot be approached or resolved through violence or one-sided actions, and (informal) cooperation contributed to conflict prevention. Based on a review of four phases of hydropolitics in Central Asia, we elaborate the notion of a regional 'water neighbourhood' to show that Western, rationalist conceptualisations of state and interstate relations fall short of explaining the different realities of transboundary water relations around the world.

KEYWORDS: Hydropolitics, water management, Central Asia, constructivism, regional identity


Emotions in water diplomacy: Negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Wondwosen Michago Seide
Lund University, Lund, Sweden;

Emanuele Fantini
Water Governance Department, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands; Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: This paper aims to foreground the importance of emotions in water diplomacy in general and in Nile water diplomacy in particular. Water diplomacy does not operate from a clean slate, but in a socio-hydropolitically mediated context which is, in turn, imbued with emotions. The existing water diplomacy approach primarily operates with the assumption that the riparian state is a rational actor. However, we argue that emotions have underpinned water diplomacy, including the ongoing Nile negotiations. These emotions are neither acknowledged nor negotiated but are dismissed as irrationality in both the theoretical understanding and practice of water diplomacy. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a bone of contention between, and evoked deep emotions in, Ethiopia and Egypt. Even if they are often unacknowledged by water policy makers, diplomats, and engineers in negotiations on how to fill and operate the GERD, these actors are inevitably negotiating emotions such as fear of water insecurity, anger over water injustice, harm aversion, impact minimisation, and threat diffusion. Conclusions point to the understanding of emotions as one important element influencing the process and outcome of water negotiations in general and on the Nile River in particular. To achieve effective cooperation among riparian states, an assessment of the issues’ emotional impacts may be necessary.

KEYWORDS: Emotions, water diplomacy, negotiations, Nile River, GERD, Ethiopia, Egypt


Viewpoint – Seeing like a farmer – How irrigation policies may undermine farmer-led irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Annelieke Duker
IHE Delft, Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: State and non-state support for farmer-led irrigation can help resource-poor farmers and mitigate adverse social and environmental impacts. However, emerging farmer-led irrigation policies are usually based on assumptions, objectives, and approaches that do not match with many farmer realities. As a result, farmer-led irrigation policies may stifle farmers’ initiatives and the distinctive strengths of these irrigation ventures. Based on two key learnings from studies on farmer-led irrigation in Kenya and Zimbabwe, this viewpoint explores how external interventions may adversely affect irrigation development. First, farmer-led irrigation is characterised by a high degree of farmer autonomy, dynamism, and flexibility. Therefore, farmer-led ventures can fail and struggle, and learning and progress are a result of this autonomy. Embedding often-informal initiatives in formal structures can smother the autonomous and/or entrepreneurial character of farmer-led irrigation. Second, farmers’ aspirations and needs do not always reflect a market-oriented and long-term engagement in irrigation. Dominant frames of commercialising farmer-led irrigation may therefore fail to accommodate the diverse needs of farming households. Interventions may be most meaningful when they recognize, build on, and support diverse aspirations of rural households, aimed at promoting their livelihoods and resilience without promoting specific technologies or pathways. This requires a shift in planning beyond technocratic irrigation discourses of market orientation and water efficiency and productivity.

KEYWORDS: Farmer-led irrigation, policy, development interventions, livelihoods, sub-Saharan Africa


Immaterial infrastructures and conflict in the Salween River Basin

Stew Motta
IVM, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;

Aaron T. Wolf
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA;

E. Lisa F. Schipper
Geography Department, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany;

ABSTRACT: This paper historicises Burmese and Thai efforts to cooperate around hydraulic infrastructure construction in the conflictual Salween landscape. Transboundary water governance literature focuses on the material or physical changes in river flows or in upstream and downstream governance dynamics that are caused by infrastructure. This study enhances understandings of water conflict and cooperation by tracing how immaterial infrastructure can increase conflict dynamics at potential Salween project sites even before any concrete has been poured. Hydraulic infrastructure is used in its immaterial forms to restructure the landscape and international relations. The Burmese military or 'Sit Tat' uses such projects as an 'illiberal signal' to convey future political intentions to international partners. The immaterial infrastructures hold together securitised elite alliances that obtain legitimacy and foreign reserves for the Sit Tat in exchange for future resource extraction profits. Mirumachi’s TWINS model (Transboundary Water Interaction NexuS) is used to highlight moments of infrastructure intentions that simultaneously increase violence and conflict without changes to the river’s hydrology. This paper shows how international cooperation around megaprojects keeps Salween communities in cycles of violence and dispossession for decades, even at project sites where infrastructure has yet to be constructed.

KEYWORDS: Hydropolitics, immaterial infrastructure, conflict, environmental justice, Myanmar, Thailand


Echoes of the Okavango Delta – Does the voice of the people matter?

Anand Datla
Texas A&M, College Station, USA;

Susanne Schmeier
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands;

Gabriela Cuadrado-Quesada
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands;

Ronald Mothobi
Okavango Research Institute, Maun, Botswana;

ABSTRACT: Water governance in a shared basin features a complex array of actors operating at one or many scales, whose knowledge, practices, and authority inform and influence that governance. These relationships can be particularly complex in water systems that form part of a transboundary river system, as is the case with the Okavango Delta. The article discusses the persistent challenges of water access faced by community members in the Delta. Water governance in the Delta has been studied from various disciplinary perspectives; still, the experiences of local communities at the layer nearest to the water resources remain a topic of significant interest. Our research takes an integrated approach combining concepts of scales, institutions, and power. This article is based on a literature review and a qualitative empirical field study; the study found that communities in the Delta complain about persistent experiences of constrained access and limited influence in matters related to water governance. We also observe that the state is entangled in policy and practice at various scales, often appropriating power at the expense of those institutions and mechanisms designed to address the needs of the local community. Our study shows that the exercise of power by formal institutions in the Delta tends to undermine informal institutions, compromising the ability of some community members to participate effectively in water governance processes.

KEYWORDS: Water governance, scales, critical institutionalism, power, community participation, Okavango Delta, Botswana


The illusion of the container based sanitation solution: Lessons from Khayelitsha, South Africa

Mmeli Dube
University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa;

Fiona Anciano
University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa;

Anna Mdee
School of Politics & International Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK;

ABSTRACT: Container Based Sanitation (CBS) is seen, by some, as a sustainable sanitation 'solution' for informal settlements. Presented as a cost-effective form of improved, safely managed, affordable, and water-saving sanitation, proponents argue that it not only enhances safety for vulnerable groups, but that it can also be funded through innovative market and circular economy solutions. The City of Cape Town (CoCT) provides CBS on a large scale to informal settlements for free. Yet residents are notoriously unhappy with CBS. This paper is based on two years of fieldwork in BM Section, Khayelitsha, Cape Town, which included transect walks, participant observation, engagement with community leaders and civil society activists, and in-depth interviews with 42 respondents including BM Section residents, City of Cape Town officials, and private sector contractors. The paper applies the concept of infrastructural citizenship to examine the provision of Portable Flush Toilets (PFTs), a form of CBS, in Khayelitsha. Our data reveals conflicted views in relation to the (non)adoption of CBS, which are deeply entwined with frustration at the unmet promises of the post-apartheid state. At face value, CBS in Cape Town is an acceptable and successful form of sanitation for informal settlements. However, this paper suggests that this is an illusion. Our case study reveals that PFTs are experienced as neither a dignified nor a sustainable sanitation solution. This paper shifts the debate surrounding the adequacy and nature of sanitation provision in informal settlements, from focusing on material technological systems to the complexity of sanitation-related infrastructural citizenship.

KEYWORDS: Sanitation, Container-Based Sanitation (CBS), Portable Flush Toilets (PFTs), informal settlement, infrastructural citizenship, infrastructural violence, off-grid, Cape Town, South Africa


The water frontier: Agribusiness vs. smallholder communities in the Brazilian Cerrado

Ludivine Eloy
ART-Dev, Univ Montpellier, CIRAD, CNRS, Université de Perpignan, Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier, France;

Andréa Leme da Silva
Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil;

Osmar Coelho Filho
Graduate Program in Environmental Technology and Water Resources, University of Brasilia, Brasília, Brazil;

Stéphane Ghiotti
ART-Dev, Univ Montpellier, CIRAD, CNRS, Université de Perpignan, Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier, France;

ABSTRACT: Agro-industrial expansion in the Brazilian savannas (the Cerrado) is associated with deforestation and land conflicts, but its relationship with water issues remains under-studied. Drawing on the basin trajectory approach, we explore the transformations in water usage and water policies over the past 20 years, as well as the divergent explanations for water scarcity in the Corrente River watershed (western Bahia). We identify a process of basin closure: Soybean farmers exploit growing volumes of surface and groundwater for centre-pivot irrigation, while, in smallholder communities located downstream from the plantations, long-established gravitational irrigation systems are declining. The volume of water licensed to agro-industrial companies grew by 431% between 2013 and 2021. During a phase of 'water abundance' and poor hydrological knowledge, water pumping relied on the deregulation of state environmental policy. Since the water scarcity phase, starting in 2015, the irrigator-farmer group has had to face growing protest from social movements and warnings from the scientific community. Its narrative, focused on climate change and the spatial dislocation of the problem (from upstream to downstream), helps to disclaim responsibility for water scarcity. This controversy over the causes of water scarcity, added to the fragility of instruments of social participation, may explain why supply augmentation is still the main response of the state for coping with basin closure.

KEYWORDS: Water licenses, water scarcity, soybean frontier, irrigated agriculture, environmental narratives, river basin trajectory, Brazilian Cerrado, Brazil