Folder Issue3

October 2009



Is the water sector lagging behind education and health on aid effectiveness? Lessons from Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Uganda

Katharina Welle
STEPS Centre/SPRU, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK;
Josephine Tucker
Overseas Development Institute, London, UK;
Alan Nicol
World Water Council, Marseille, France;
Barbara Evans
University of Leeds, School of Civil Engineering, Leeds, UK;

ABSTRACT: A study in three countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Uganda) assessed progress against the Paris Principles for Aid Effectiveness (AE) in three sectors -€“ water, health and education -€“ to test the assumption that the water sector is lagging behind. The findings show that it is too simplistic to say that the water sector is lagging, although this may well be the case in some countries. The study found that wider governance issues are more important for AE than having in place sector-specific mechanics such as Sector-Wide Approaches alone. National political leadership and governance are central drivers of sector AE, while national financial and procurement systems and the behaviour of actors who have not signed up to the Paris Principles -€“ at both national and global levels -€“ have implications for progress that cut across sectors. Sectors and sub-sectors do nonetheless have distinct features that must be considered in attempting to improve sector-level AE. In light of these findings, using political economy approaches to better understand and address governance and strengthening sector-level monitoring is recommended as part of efforts to improve AE and development results in the water sector.

KEYWORDS: Aid effectiveness, water, health, education, governance, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Uganda


The Water Resources Board: England and Wales' venture into national water resources planning, 1964-1973

Christine S. McCulloch
School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford, UK

ABSTRACT: An era of technocratic national planning of water resources is examined against the views of a leading liberal economist and critics, both contemporary and retrospective. Post Second World War Labour Governments in Britain failed to nationalise either land or water. As late as 1965, the idea of public ownership of all water supplies appeared in the Labour Party manifesto and a short-lived Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, 1964-1966, had amongst its duties the development of plans for reorganising the water supply industry under full public ownership. However, instead of pursuing such a politically dangerous takeover of the industry, in July 1964, a Water Resources Board (WRB), a special interest group dominated by engineers, was set up to advise on the development of water resources. In its first Annual Report (1965) WRB claimed its role as "the master planner of the water resources of England and Wales". The WRB had a great deal of influence and justified its national planning role by promoting large-scale supply schemes such as interbasin transfers of water, large reservoirs and regulated rivers. Feasibility studies were even carried out for building innovative, large storage reservoirs in tidal estuaries. Less progress was made on demand reduction. Yet the seeds of WRB'€™s demise were contained in its restricted terms of reference. The lack of any remit over water quality was a fatal handicap. Quantity and quality needed to be considered together. Privatisation of the water industry in 1989 led to a shift from national strategic planning by engineers to attempts to strengthen economic instruments to fit supply more closely to demand. Engineers have now been usurped as leaders in water resources management by economists and accountants. Yet climate change may demand a return to national strategic planning of engineered water supply, with greater democratic input.


Viewpoint -€ “ The right irrigation?

Bruce Lankford
School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

ABSTRACT: In July 2009, in the closing moments of the G8 meeting in Italy, President Obama responded to a question from the floor regarding investments in Africa to tackle food security and poverty. His answer (quoted below) included the phrase "the right irrigation". This opinion piece reflects on the phrase, places it within a policy debate and suggests that the development community can respond to Obama'€™s call for the 'right irrigation' in sub-Saharan Africa by taking a comprehensive approach that utilises a mixture of technologies, builds on local capabilities, brings sound engineering know-how, is supported by a range of other services, and acknowledges other water needs within catchments. Cost-effectiveness and community ownership will be important.


Institutions that cannot manage change: A Gandhian perspective on the Cauvery dispute in South India

Narendar Pani
National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India;

ABSTRACT: There is a growing recognition that water conflicts extend well beyond issues of water scarcity. Perceptions of scarcity are themselves based on assumptions of what is sufficient. And what is considered sufficient is in turn influenced by a number of social, economic and even political considerations. There is thus a need for a more inclusive method of understanding water conflicts and the institutions needed to address them. Among such alternative methods is the one used by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This paper adopts the Gandhian method to reinterpret the interstate dispute over the water of the south Indian river, Cauvery. It then uses this more inclusive method to identify the conflict-easing and conflict- enhancing aspects of the dispute. In the process, the limitations of the existing institutions in addressing the conflict become evident.

KEYWORDS: River basin, conflicts, institutions, Gandhi, Cauvery, India


Hydraulic bureaucracies and the hydraulic mission: Flows of water, flows of power

François Molle
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UR199, Montpellier, France;
Peter P. Mollinga
Department of Political and Cultural Change, ZEF (Center for Development Research), Bonn University, Germany;
Philippus Wester
Irrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands;

ABSTRACT: Anchored in 19th century scientism and an ideology of the domination of nature, inspired by colonial hydraulic feats, and fuelled by technological improvements in high dam constructions and power generation and transmission, large-scale water resources development has been a defining feature of the 20th century. Whether out of a need to increase food production, raise rural incomes, or strengthen state building and the legitimacy of the state, governments - North and South, East and West - embraced the 'hydraulic mission' and entrusted it to powerful state water bureaucracies (hydrocracies). Engaged in the pursuit of iconic and symbolic projects, the massive damming of river systems, and the expansion of large-scale public irrigation these hydrocracies have long remained out of reach. While they have enormously contributed to actual welfare, including energy and food generation, flood protection and water supply to urban areas, infrastructural development has often become an end in itself, rather than a means to an end, fuelling rent-seeking and symbolising state power. In many places projects have been challenged on the basis of their economic, social or environmental impacts. Water bureaucracies have been challenged internally (within the state bureaucracies or through political changes) and externally (by critiques from civil society and academia, or by reduced funding). They have endeavoured to respond to these challenges by reinventing themselves or deflecting reforms. This paper analyses these transformations, from the emergence of the hydraulic mission and associated water bureaucracies to their adjustment and responses to changing conditions.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation, hydraulic mission, water resource development, iron triangle, interest groups, reform


The end of abundance: How water bureaucrats created and destroyed the southern California oasis

David Zetland
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Berkeley, US

ABSTRACT: This paper describes how water bureaucrats shaped Southern California's urban development and put the region on a path of unsustainable growth. This path was popular and successful until the supply shocks of the 60s, 70s and 80s made shortage increasingly likely. The drought of 1987-€“1991 revealed that the norms and institutions of abundance were ineffective in scarcity. Ever since then, Southern California has teetered on the edge of shortage and economic and social disruption. Despite the risks of business as usual, water bureaucrats, politicians and developers continue to defend a status quo management strategy that serves their interests but not those of citizens. Professional norms, control of the discourse, and insulation from outside pressure slow or inhibit the adoption of management techniques suitable to scarcity. Pressure from increasing population and politically and environmentally destabilised supplies promise to make rupture more likely and more costly.

KEYWORDS: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, abundance, scarcity, institutions, California


Agua para todos: A new regionalist hydraulic paradigm in Spain

Elena Lopez-Gunn
Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain and London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK;

ABSTRACT: This paper reviews the hydraulic paradigm in Spain and its evolution over the last 100 years to the current decentralisation process of "agua para todos", i.e. where different regional governments vie for control over 'scarce' water resources and defining the concept of hydro-solidarity between regions. Recent events seem to point to a new hydraulic bureaucracy at the sub-national level due to the political devolution currently taking place in Spain, where water has an increased political value in electoral terms. Water has strategic importance in single-issue politics and territorial identity, as compared to traditional left/right ideologic cleavage politics for both national and regional parties in the Spanish multilevel electoral system. This refers to an aspect -€“ openly discussed in Spain but rarely analysed - the 'political returns' on water (or 'political rent-seeking'). This also points to spatial dimensions of the definition of state, identity, and access to resources in a semiarid country. This historical process of decentralisation of water is highlighted with particular reference to key events in recent Spanish history, including the Hydraulic Plan of the 1930s, its reappearance in the 1993 National Hydrological Plan, a revised version in the year 2001, and a final change in paradigm in 2005 at the national level. This suggests that the hydraulic paradigm is re-enacted at the regional government level. Thus it is argued that a multi-scalar analysis of Spanish water decentralisation is essential in order to understand change and stasis in public policy paradigms related to water.

KEYWORDS: Hydraulic paradigm, territory and identity, water politics, interbasin transfers, Spain


The hydraulic mission and the Mexican hydrocracy: Regulating and reforming the flows of water and power

Philippus Wester
Irrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Edwin Rap
Irrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Sergio Vargas-Velazquez
Mexican Institute of Water Technology, Morelos, Mexico

ABSTRACT: In Mexico, the hydraulic mission, the centralisation of water control, and the growth of the federal hydraulic bureaucracy (hydrocracy) recursively shaped and reinforced each other during the 20th century. The hydraulic mission entails that the state, embodied in an autonomous hydrocracy, takes the lead in water resources development to capture as much water as possible for human uses. The hydraulic mission was central to the formation of Mexico'€™s hydrocracy, which highly prized its autonomy. Bureaucratic rivals, political transitions, and economic developments recurrently challenged the hydrocracy'€™s degree of autonomy. However, driven by the argument that a single water authority should regulate and control the nation'€™s waters, the hydrocracy consistently managed to renew its, always precarious, autonomy at different political moments in the country€'s history. The legacy of the hydraulic mission continues to inform water reforms in Mexico, and largely explains the strong resilience of the Mexican hydrocracy to "deep" institutional change and political transitions. While the emphasis on infrastructure construction has lessened, the hydrocracy has actively renewed its control over water decisions and budgets and has played a remarkably constant, hegemonic role in defining and shaping Mexico'€™s water laws, policies and institutions.


Hydraulic bureaucracy in a modern hydraulic society -€“ Strategic group formation in the Mekong delta, Vietnam

Hans-Dieter Evers
Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany
Simon Benedikter
Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany

ABSTRACT: The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is among the largest river deltas in Asia and one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, in particular paddy cultivation. People in this area have traditionally been exposed to an environment shaped by the ebb and flows of water and have lived and adapted for generations to their natural surrounding without much human interference into the complex natural hydraulic system of the delta. However, the last three decades have seen dramatic changes as increased hydraulic management has become the key to the development of the lower Mekong Delta especially for its agriculture.

Nowadays, a dense and complex network of hydraulic works comprising human-made canals, dykes and sluices provides flood protection, prevents salinity intrusion, and controls irrigation for agriculture and aquaculture in the delta. This transformation from a society adapted to its natural surrounding into what Wittfogel describes as a "hydraulic society" started to take place just after the end of the Second Indochinese War in 1975, after South Vietnam came under centralised socialist rule. The new regime'€™s economic policy for the development of the Mekong Delta have centred on rapid agricultural extension based on technological progress in agricultural production and intensive hydraulic management. This whole process has not only had significant impact on the delta'€™s environment and ecology, but also has triggered social transformation in a way that new social groups have appeared, negotiating and struggling for increased access to resources and power.

Among these strategic groups, the hydraulic bureaucracy and hydraulic construction business are the most crucial in terms of the specific role they play in the hydraulic landscape of the Mekong Delta. Both groups exert considerable influence on water resources management and strive for the same resources, namely public funds (including Overseas Development Aid) that is directed to hydraulic infrastructure development. This paper illustrates how both groups have emerged due to the growing need for water resources management in the delta and how they have set up alliances for mutually sharing resources in the long run. Furthermore, it is shown how both groups have adapted their resource-oriented strategies and actions to respond to the changes in the economic and political environment in Vietnam's recent history.


The fluctuating political appeal of water engineering in Australia

Lin R. Crase
La Trobe University, Wodonga, Australia
Suzanne M. O'€™Keefe
Regional School of Business, La Trobe University, Wodonga, Australia s.o'€™
Brian E. Dollery
School of Business Economics and Public Policy, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia

ABSTRACT: Like many nations, Australia has a mixed history with water engineering. For over a century the engineer was 'king' and water was harnessed as a vehicle for settling the harsh inland, creating wealth and building prosperity. By the 1960s it was becoming increasingly clear that this approach was not without its flaws. Mounting evidence of environmental degradation emerged in the 1970s and the trend towards fiscal responsibility in the 1980s subjected the engineering approach to even greater scrutiny. These events set the context for a series of water policy reforms that commenced in earnest in the early 1990s. Initially, the reforms favoured greater use of economic incentives and focussed attention on the ecological impacts of water management. In this environment, the status of the engineer was transformed from 'king' to 'servant'. However, the engineering profession was not to hold this status for long and the political difficulties of simultaneously dealing with the economics and ecology of water quickly became the rationale for reverting to engineering solutions. This paper traces these historical events and focusses specifically on the politically vexing issues that arise when water reallocation is attempted in a fully allocated basin.


Beyond bureaucracy? Assessing institutional change in the governance of water in England

Nigel Watson
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
Hugh Deeming
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
Raphael Treffny
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK

ABSTRACT: Alternative governance approaches in which non-state actors play a substantial role in policy making and implementation are currently attracting attention. Government-centred water bureaucracies have to adapt to increased complexity. Relationships among state and non-state actors in the English water sector have markedly changed in the last few decades in connection with the privatisation of water services, reform of arrangements for flood management, and implementation of the European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD). The paper assesses whether such changes represent a shift 'beyond bureaucracy' and the beginning of a new era of multi-party 'water governance'. From an examination of institutional reform in river basin management and flood risk management, the paper concludes that the water bureaucracy has actually strengthened its control, despite using language emphasising partnerships and collaborative governance. Responsibility for policy implementation has been reallocated among a range of public, private and civic groups. This 'neo-bureaucratic' arrangement is problematic because the government-centred water bureaucracy has lost some of its accountability and legitimacy, while the newer collaborative arrangements have little real influence over the direction of water policy. Governance capacity needs to be enhanced by adopting a collaborative approach to development of water policy in addition to its implementation.


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Global corruption report 2008: Corruption in the water sector (Zinnbauer, D. and Dobson, R. 2008).
Undala Alam