Folder Issue1

February 2009



Ecology and equity in rights to land and water: A study in south-eastern Palakkad in Kerala

Jyothi Krishnan
Independent Researcher, Thrissur, Kerala, South India;
Abey George
Kerala Institute of Local Administration, Thrissur, India;

ABSTRACT: This article explores the impact of the existing property rights regime over land and water on the sustainable and equitable management and use of these resources, in the context of changing irrigation practices in a paddy-growing area in the south-eastern part of the Palakkad district in Kerala, India. Since land rights determine rights to water in the area, the article discusses the changing rights regime over land, primarily after the implementation of land reforms in 1970. It shows how the implementation of land reforms and nationalization of private forests have paid little attention to the ecological context in which redistribution was taking place. As a result, while an agricultural-cum- forested landscape was divided into privately owned and government owned parcels, the ecological relationships between these different land use categories were ignored. In the same vein, land and water were treated as separate entities, with redistribution of land rights overlooking the distribution of water rights. The compartmentalized view of resources coupled with the consolidation of the private property regime has resulted in a situation where landowners exploit the resource without any consideration for its ecological characteristics and inter-resource linkages. The failure to view land and water in integration has precipitated inequitable access and unsustainable use of water. In addition, the availability of external water supplies and the introduction of energised pumping facilitate the enclosure of water within privately owned land parcels. The article concludes that a re-envisioning of rights to resources within the concerned ecological context is necessary if sustainable and equitable resource use and management are to be achieved.


Viewpoint - Butterflies vs. hydropower: Reflections on large dams in contemporary Africa

Henry Shirazu Alhassan
School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK;

ABSTRACT: The current acute needs for improved water resources and energy management in the contemporary development of Africa has renewed the interest in large dams in recent times, especially in the energy sector, because of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), concern about climate change, the increase in crude oil prices and alternative sources of funding for large dams. So, the rethink about large dams as an energy source in the face of increasing costs of crude oil and climate change is also based on finding cheaper and renewable sources of electricity. However, the renewable credentials of large dams, and their compatibility with sustainable development, are disputed. Using the Akosombo dam and the Bui dam project - both in Ghana - as case studies, this paper analyses the potential and significance of large dams within the ambit of Africa'€™s contemporary development. The paper argues that despite criticisms of large dams and the promotion of alternatives, large dams are still very important to Africa'€™s development as they are technologies with well known positive and negative socio-economic and environmental impacts which could be mitigated. The alternatives to large dams, in contrast, have relatively unknown long-term socio-economic and environmental impacts. In addition, there is scepticism among local people and other stakeholders about the alternatives to large hydropower dams because of the impression that some western-backed non-governmental organisations (NGOs), some northern countries, and some multilateral and bilateral institutions are intentionally seeking to undermine significant development in Ghana and other African countries.


Organising water: The hidden role of intermediary work

Timothy Moss
Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, Erkner, Germany.
Will Medd
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK.
Simon Guy
University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.
Simon Marvin
Salford University, Manchester, UK.

ABSTRACT: The increasingly complex challenges of making water management more sustainable require a critical and detailed understanding of the social organisation of water. This paper examines the hitherto neglected role that 'intermediary' organisations play in reshaping the relations between the provision and use of water and sanitation services. In response to new regulatory, environmental, social, and commercial pressures the relationships between water utilities, consumers, and regulators are changing, creating openings for both new and existing organisations to take on intermediary functions. Drawing on recent EU-funded research we provide the first systematic analysis of intermediary organisations in the European water sector, examining the contexts of their emergence, the ways they work, the functions they perform, and the impacts they can have. With a combination of conceptual and empirical analysis we substantiate and elaborate the case for appreciating the often hidden work of intermediaries. We caution, however, against over-simplistic conclusions on harnessing this potential, highlighting instead the need to reframe perspectives on how water is organised to contemplate actor constellations and interactions beyond the common triad of provider, consumer, and regulator.


Water and poverty in two Colombian watersheds

Nancy Johnson
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya;
James Garcia
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia;
Jorge E. Rubiano
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia;
Marcela Quintero
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia;
Ruben Dario Estrada
Consorcio para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Ecorregion Andina, Cali, Colombia;
Esther Mwangi
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC;
Adriana Morena
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia;
Alexandra Peralta
Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State Univ.;
Sara Granados
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia;

ABSTRACT: Watersheds, especially in the developing world, are increasingly being managed for both environmental conservation and poverty alleviation. How complementary are these objectives? In the context of a watershed, the actual and potential linkages between land and water management and poverty are complex and likely to be very site specific and scale dependent. This study analyses the importance of watershed resources in the livelihoods of the poor in two watersheds in the Colombian Andes. Results of the participatory poverty assessment reveal significant decreases in poverty in both watersheds over the past 25 years, which was largely achieved by the diversification of livelihoods outside of agriculture. Water is an important resource for household welfare. However, opportunities for reducing poverty by increasing the quantity or quality of water available to the poor may be limited. While improved watershed management may have limited direct benefits in terms of poverty alleviation, there are important indirect linkages between watershed management and poverty, mainly through labour and service markets. The results suggest that at the level of the watershed the interests of the rich and the poor are not always in conflict over water. Sectoral as well as socio-economic differences define stakeholder groups in watershed management. The findings have implications for policymakers, planners and practitioners in various sectors involved in the implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM).


Transforming Rural Water Governance: Towards Deliberative and Polycentric Models?

Andreas Neef


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


Developing participatory models of watershed management in the Sugar Creek watershed (Ohio, USA)

Jason Shaw Parker
Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences, Columbus, OH, US;
Richard Moore
Human and Community Resource Development, Agriculture Administration, Columbus, OH, US;
Mark Weaver
Political Science, College of Wooster, Wooster, OH;

ABSTRACT: The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has historically used an expert-driven approach to water and watershed management. In an effort to create regulatory limits for pollution-loading to streams in the USA, the USEPA is establishing limits to the daily loading of nutrients specific to each watershed, which will affect many communities in America. As a part of this process, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency ranked the Sugar Creek Watershed as the second "most-impaired" watershed in the State of Ohio. This article addresses an alternative approach to watershed management and that emphasises a partnership of farmers and researchers, using community participation in the Sugar Creek to establish a time-frame with goals for water quality remediation. Of interest are the collaborative efforts of a team of farmers, researchers, and agents from multiple levels of government who established this participatory, rather than expert-driven, programme. This new approach created an innovative and adaptive model of non-point source pollution remediation, incorporating strategies to address farmer needs and household decision making, while accounting for local and regional farm structures. In addition, this model has been adapted for point source pollution remediation that creates collaboration among local farmers and a discharge-permitted business that involves nutrient trading.


Place-based knowledge networks: The case of water management in South-West Victoria, Australia

Kevin O'€™Toole
School of International and Political Studies, Deakin University, Australia;
Anne Wallis
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Australia;
Brad Mitchell
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Australia;

ABSTRACT: This article aims to investigate the need for effective exchanges between knowledge generators and knowledge users in water management. Firstly, we explore the use of adaptive management for water governance and then outline the communication issues of water-management knowledge at a regional scale. Central to this approach is the need to harness 'local' knowledge that can be used to develop community participation in local water governance. Accordingly, we propose a three-network communication model to illustrate the process and identify the issues of concern for developing place-based strategies. Since research plays a central role in knowledge generation, one of the first ways to proceed is to recognise local research and incorporate it into an inclusive decision-making process. One way to achieve this is through the development of regional networks that are openly available to all, and we explore this by focusing on the place of 'network thinking' at local scale using a newly developed regional network for local knowledge dissemination in south-west Victoria, Australia. We conclude that so far this new network is too heavily reliant upon one web-based tool and outline a broader range of strategies that can be used to achieve its aims.


Polycentrism and poverty: Experiences of rural water supply reform in Namibia

Thomas Falk
Institute for Co-operation in Developing Countries, Marburg, Germany;
Bernadette Bock
Ministry of Environment and Tourism of the Republic of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia;
Michael Kirk
Institute for Co-operation in Developing Countries, Marburg, Germany;

ABSTRACT: Calls for new paradigms in water resource management have emerged from a broad range of commentators over the past decade. These calls arose as it became increasingly clear that the pressing problems in water resource management have to be tackled from an integrated polycentric perspective, taking into account interdependent economic, societal, environmental, institutional and technological factors. Adhering to the calls, Namibia designed polycentric water management approaches, with the objective of maximising economic and social welfare in an equitable manner and without compromising the sustainability of vital rural ecosystems. Understanding the barriers to integrated and adaptive management requires a critical reflection on conventional modes of governance. In this regard, Namibia has achieved great strides by shifting from monocentric public water management systems towards strongly community-based polycentric management.
This paper investigates how polycentric rural water supply reform impacts on natural resource management and water users'€™ livelihoods in three communal areas of Namibia. The analysis takes into account the effects of historic discriminative policies and the resulting low financial, human and social capital of rural communities. We conclude that the devolution of institutional and financial responsibility for water supply to users has had a positive impact on rural water management. However, the introduction of cost recovery principles conflicts with the objectives of the Namibian government to alleviate poverty and inequality. The high level of inequality within the country as a whole and also within communities impedes the development of fair fee systems. Polycentrism faces the major challenge of building on existing structures without replicating historic injustices. It allows, however, for the state to mitigate any negative impact on livelihoods. While the reform is in the process of full implementation, the government is discussing various options of how the poor can be guaranteed access to water without diminishing their development opportunities. The Namibian experience demonstrates the difficulties in developing effective incentive mechanisms without undermining major social objectives. Our analyses show that, compared to naive monocentric governance approaches, polycentrism offers much broader opportunities for achieving multidimensional objectives. Nonetheless, a reform does not become successful simply because it is polycentric.

KEYWORDS: Community-based natural resource management, decentralisation, cost recovery, poverty alleviation, Namibia


Viewpoint - Further ideas towards a water ethic

Adrian C. Armstrong
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK;

ABSTRACT: This essay expands the water ethic of Armstrong (2007) by identifying four main functions of water: as a source of life, as a land-forming element, as a habitat, and as a mover of materials (i.e. a geomorphological agent). It is suggested that from these functions, four guiding principles can then be derived: 1) in allocating water, human beings allocate life potential; 2) altering water fluxes affects the function of a whole system; 3) water is a (fundamental) component of the earth system in its own right; 4) water fluxes are essential for the continued function and maintenance of both biological and non-biological systems. From these a full ethical evaluation of any proposed action could be based on an environmental axis as well as on the economic axis in decision making. Such full analyses can often be reduced in practice to a series of 'rules of thumb' for everyday decisions. Some candidate rules are suggested. Focusing on practical decision making and action on the function of water offers a potential way of implementing the Leopold 'land ethic'.

KEYWORDS: Water ethic, water for life


Download (pdf, 140 KB)


Gender and natural resource management: Livelihoods, mobility and interventions (B. Resurreccion, and R. Elmhirst (Eds). 2008).
Louis Lebel and Santita Ganjanapan


Download (pdf, 140 KB)


Water and peace for the people: Possible solutions to water disputes in the Middle East (J.M. Trondalen. 2008).
Mark Zeitoun