Folder Issue2

June 2009



Fishing for influence: Fisheries science and evidence in water resources development in the Mekong basin

Richard M. Friend
M-POWER, c/o USER, Chiang Mai University, Thailand;

ABSTRACT: During the last decade there has been a concerted effort in the Mekong basin to research the capture fisheries in an attempt to influence national and regional water resource policy and practice, particularly hydropower development. As a result of this research effort, the Mekong capture fisheries are better documented than ever before. There is broad consensus on the key conclusions of this research - on the scale and value of production, its importance to local livelihoods, and the ecological drivers of the natural productivity. Despite this research success the agendas of water resources management have not changed, and the pace of hydropower development has accelerated. This presents a dilemma for fisheries science and research in its efforts to influence policy. This paper considers the models and assumptions of policy influence that have underpinned this fisheries research effort, and presents alternative approaches for fisheries science to better engage in influencing policy. The paper argues that addressing the neglect of capture fisheries in the Mekong is fundamentally a governance challenge of setting development values and pathways. Meeting such a challenge, in the context of the Mekong, requires a democratising and civic science that broadens the decision-making arena as much as it produces new evidence and arguments.


African models for transnational river basin organisations in Africa: An unexplored dimension

Douglas J. Merrey
Independent Consultant. PO Box 27043, Monument Park 0181, Pretoria, South Africa;

ABSTRACT: One of the many legacies of colonialism in Africa is the multiplicity of river basins shared by two or more -€“ and often far more -€“ countries. Since changing national boundaries is not an option, African governments have no choice but to develop transnational institutions for developing shared water resources. Therefore, one finds a plethora of bilateral and multilateral committees, commissions, and authorities intended to facilitate agreements for infrastructural investments, management of water flows (quantity and quality), and response to disasters, especially floods. These efforts are supported by -€“ indeed often, at least behind the scenes, driven by -€“ western and international development partners. With few exceptions, the results to date are not impressive, as governments drag their feet on ratifying or implementing agreements and investing in creating the necessary institutional infrastructure, and donors' funds go unspent because such agreements are conditions precedent for investment. Despite the work done by many international and local non-government organisations (NGOs) as well as some governments, hardly any of the residents of African river basins are aware of these commissions. All of them are based on organisational models derived from western experiences and governing principles and are created by inter-governmental agreements. The citizens residing in the basin are rarely consulted. In some cases, powerful national hydraulic bureaucracies seek to control the process in an effort to gain leverage over infrastructural investments. There is a body of literature seeking to explain the ineffectiveness of transnational river basin management to date, largely based on political science, sociology and economics. Some but not all observers are concerned with the degree of democracy in the political process. This paper addresses a dimension that has received very little attention and therefore complements the existing literature. It explores the hypothesis that transnational river basin management institutions will achieve a higher degree of legitimacy and effectiveness in the long run if they are based on African institutional models rather than pursuing the current approach of imposing external models. This assumes the existence of local African indigenous models or principles that can be adapted to such large-scale hydraulic institutions. The paper argues this may indeed be the case though more detailed research is needed to document them, and a creative consultative political process would be needed to build on these foundations.

KEYWORDS: African institutional models, international waters, legal pluralism, river basin organisations, Southern African Development Community, transboundary rivers, transnational river basins


Continuing discontinuities: Local and state perspectives on cattle production and water management in Botswana

Emmanuel Manzungu
Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe;
Tiego J. Mpho
UNDP-Government of Botswana Environment Support Programme, Gaborone, Botswana;
Africa Mpale-Mudanga
Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Gaborone, Botswana;

ABSTRACT: From 1885 when the modern state of Botswana was founded until the discovery of significant mineral deposits in 1967, one year after independence, the livestock industry, particularly cattle production, played a significant role in the country'€™s economy. Today there are concerns about how the livestock industry, because of its importance to many rural households, and its potential to diversify the mineral-dominated economy, can be revived. In recognition of the country's semi-arid climate, the government has promoted a policy of developing water sources for livestock watering. The state has acknowledged the policy has largely been ineffective, but continues to implement it. This paper attempts to explain this paradox by examining state and local perspectives in the management of water and related resources in the Botswana part of the Limpopo river basin. The discontinuities between the local inhabitants and state practitioners are analyzed within the wider physical social, political, and economic landscape. We ascribe the continued implementation of an ineffective policy to modernisation claims.


Europeanisation and the rescaling of water services: Agency and state spatial strategies in the Algarve, Portugal

Andreas Thiel
Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany;

ABSTRACT: Institutional arrangements to provide water services have been reshaped extensively worldwide. This paper provides a theory-informed account of the way in which water service provision has been physically and institutionally restructured in the Algarve, Portugal over the years. Ever-expanding demands for water services by the tourism sector, along with European Union (EU) regulations and money, made the local people dependent on national policy for water service provision. Parts of the Portuguese national elite, favouring the construction of water resources as "strategic", "social" goods rather than "economic", "scarce" goods, worked towards installing national level control over water services. They became part of the state'€™s decentralised hegemonic spatial strategy for expansion of tourism in the Algarve. The district level was constituted as a decentralised level of national resource governance. The case study shows the role of European policies in restructuring the spatio-temporal order in the Algarve and strengthening the influence of the national state within the region. The reconfiguration of the water sector in Portugal illustrates 'Spatial Keynesianism' with half-hearted mercantilisação of water services as an outcome of a juxtaposition of a nationally rooted state-led water service provision within more flexible approaches originating at the European level. A consequential outcome has been that water quality, sewage treatment and reliability of services, has significantly improved in line with European requirements.

KEYWORDS: European policies, rescaling, water management, national state, sanitation, Algarve, Portugal


Changing power relations in the Nile river basin: Unilateralism vs. cooperation?

Ana Elisa Cascão
Department of Geography, King'€™s College of London, United Kingdom;

ABSTRACT: The aim of this article is to identify where and how power relations in the Nile river basin have changed over the past decade, and to analyse how these dynamics have influenced not only the political relations between upstream and downstream riparians but also the management and allocation of the shared Nile water resources. The article sheds light on the ongoing political and economic changes in the upstream countries (as well as in Sudan) and on how these dynamics might affect and challenge both the regional balance of power and the ongoing regional cooperation process. A critical analysis of the relationship between power shifts and the evolution of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) will be provided. Finally, the article questions how unilateralist and multilateralist hydropolitical trends have co-existed in the Nile basin, and identifies possible future scenarios.

KEYWORDS: Nile river basin, power relations, change, unilateralism, cooperation, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia


The politics of PVC: Technology and institutions in upland water management in northern Thailand

Nathan Badenoch
Northern Agriculture and Forestry Research Center/Ramboll Natura, Vientiane, Lao PDR;

ABSTRACT: Conflict over water has grown in the mountainous areas of Thailand since the replacement of opium with alternative crops. PVC-sprinkler irrigation has enabled dry-season expansion of these cash crops on sloping lands, intensifying demand for water when it is most scarce. The technology and institutions that form the backbone of these irrigation systems have evolved simultaneously in a process of adaptive governance, in which local farmers draw on local social resources to balance competition and cooperation. Common conceptions of upstream€-downstream conflict, pitting Thai against ethnic minorities in a struggle for resources, dominate the discourse of watersheds in Thailand. Upland water users themselves are diverse and their resource management systems are dynamic, even if they are not recognised as legitimate users of water. Understanding how upland communities create local systems of resource governance through dry-season irrigation is highly relevant for governance at higher levels, such as in the efforts to establish watershed networks and river basin organisations.

KEYWORDS: Water management, adaptive governance, sprinkler irrigation, institutional development, Northern Thailand


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Total water management: Practices for a sustainable future (Neil S. Grigg. 2008).
Tapio S. Katko


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Transboundary water governance in southern Africa (Larry A. Swatuk and Lars Wirkus. 2009).
Coleen Fox


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Environmental protection of international watercourses under international law (McIntyre, O. 2007).
Joseph W. Dellapenna