Folder Issue3

October 2010



Indonesia'€™s water supply regulatory framework: Between commercialisation and public service?

Wijanto Hadipuro
Post Graduate Programme on Environment and Urban Studies, Soegijapranata Catholic University, Semarang, Indonesia;

ABSTRACT: Due to financial and operational problems faced by local Indonesian water supply companies (Perusahaan Daerah Air Minum -€“ PDAMs), people depend for their domestic water on many private providers, who use groundwater as their source. Within this context, this article interrogates the current water supply regulatory framework and its implications. Indonesia is at the crossroads of treating water supply as a public service or commercialising it through market or market proxy mechanisms. Through content analysis and a literature study on the impacts of such regulations in the past, this article shows that Indonesia'€™s regulatory framework lends itself to the commercialisation option. Some findings on the current regulations and their impacts indicate that awarding commercial water rights has the potential to marginalise traditional users as well as create administrative problems; adopting the full cost recovery concept has made PDAMs reluctant to expand their services, especially to the poor; inviting the private sector to manage water supply is surely not in the best interests of the provision of public services; assigning an Indonesian National Standard (SNI) has resulted in bottled water becoming the most reliable drinking water; and allowing groundwater extraction to take place without sufficient regulation and law enforcement has resulted in excessive extraction at a detriment to the environment.


Transforming water supply regimes in India: Do public-private partnerships have a role to play?

Govind Gopakumar
Assistant Professor, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Public-private partnerships (PPP) are an important governance strategy that has recently emerged as a solution to enhance the access of marginalised residents to urban infrastructures. With the inception of neo-liberal economic reforms in India, in Indian cities too PPP has emerged as an innovative approach to expand coverage of water supply and sanitation infrastructures. However, there has been little study of the dynamics of partnership efforts in different urban contexts: What role do they play in transforming existing infrastructure regimes? Do reform strategies such as partnerships result in increased privatisation or do they make the governance of infrastructures more participative? Reviewing some of the recent literature on urban political analysis, this article develops the concept of water supply regime to describe the context of water provision in three metropolitan cities in India. To further our understanding of the role of PPP within regimes, this article sketches five cases of water supply and sanitation partnerships located within these three metropolitan cities. From these empirical studies, the article arrives at the conclusion that while PPP are always products of the regime-context they are inserted within, quite often strategic actors in the partnership use the PPP to further their interests by initiating a shift in the regime pathway. This leads us to conclude that PPPs do play a role in making water supply regimes more participative but that depends on the nature of the regime as well as the actions of partners.


Hot water after the Cold War -€“ Water policy dynamics in (semi-)authoritarian states

Peter P. Mollinga
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK;

ABSTRACT: This introductory article of the special section introduces the central question that the section addresses: do water policy dynamics in (semi-)authoritarian states have specific features as compared to other state forms? The article situates the question in the post-Cold War global water governance dynamics, argues that the state is a useful and required entry point for water policy analysis, explores the meaning of (semi-) authoritarian as a category, and finally introduces the three papers, which are on China, South Africa and Vietnam.


The state and water resources development through the lens of history: A South African case study

Larry A. Swatuk
University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada;

ABSTRACT: This article sets contemporary challenges to good water governance in South Africa within an important historical context. While it is correct to say that 'the world water crisis is a crisis of governance', it is problematic to assume that all states can follow a similar path toward environmentally sustainable, economically efficient and socially equitable water resources governance and management. The nexus of decision-making power varies within and beyond states, and over time. Gramsci (1971) describes this as the "constellation of social forces". Where this constellation of social forces achieves consensus, a 'historic bloc' is said to emerge giving rise to a particular state form. The South African state form has varied greatly over several centuries, giving rise to various historic blocs. The resulting body of laws and policies and the varied forms of infrastructure that were developed to harness water for multiple social practices over time constitute a complex political ecological terrain not easily amenable to oversimplified frameworks for good water governance. This article outlines the role of water in the history of South Africa'€™s multiple state forms. It shows that over time, water policy, law and institutions came to reflect the increasingly complex needs of multiple actors (agriculture, mining, industry, cities, the newly enfranchised) represented by different state forms and their characteristic political regimes: the Dutch East India Company; the British Empire; the Union of South Africa; the apartheid and post-apartheid republics. Authoritarian, semi-authoritarian and democratic state forms have all used central-state power to serve particular interests. Through time, this constellation of social forces has widened until, today, the state has taken upon itself the task of providing "some water for all forever" (slogan of the Department of Water Affairs). As this article suggests, despite the difficult challenges presented by a mostly arid climate, this means 'adding in' the water demand of millions of people, but not 'allocating out' those privileged under other constellations of social forces as they contribute most substantially to economic growth. The implication, therefore, is a modified hydraulic mission involving significant new infrastructure and, in all likelihood, inter-basin transfers from beyond South Africa'€™s borders.


Water policy reform in China'€™s fragmented hydraulic state: Focus on self-funded/managed irrigation and drainage districts

James Nickum
Tokyo Jogakkan College, Japan;

ABSTRACT: This essay explores the nature of China'€™s unique decentralised 'authoritarian' regime and its various origins; the continuous dialectic between state-directed and market-directed approaches to the economy (including water); the economic and budgetary drivers of water policy change; whether the concept of integrated water resources management (IWRM) is overly 'loaded' with liberal ideas or even if not, whether it provides any insights beyond concepts more widely accepted in China; whether the state-society dichotomy makes sense in China'€™s guanxi (personal relations) culture; and the course of the World Bank-sponsored Self-funded/managed Irrigation and Drainage District (SIDD) reforms.


Vietnam: Water policy dynamics under a post-Cold War communism

Adam Fforde
Chairman, Adam Fforde and Assoc p/l; Asia Institute, University of Melbourne; Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University;

ABSTRACT: Vietnam is widely seen as a development success, with rather rapid economic growth and a reported reduced role of the state, yet presents many paradoxes to conventional analytical frameworks. Two of relevance are accounts that stress a combination of a strongly hegemonic regime with weak internal sovereignty in terms of both the internal coherence of the apparat and its interactions with the rest of Vietnamese society, and also associated accounts that deny much role to intentionality in explaining apparent development success. This article will contextualise accounts of political intention and policy development towards water issues in Vietnam through an examination of two main empirics: the evolution of formal policy, understood as documents of the state, as well as of political intention, understood as documents of the ruling Party; and the by now extensive series of 'active' case studies that have examined donor as well as other projects in the sector. It will examine the notion, in the contexts suggested by the Vietnamese experience, that attempts to explain Vietnamese water policy, which have shown a tendency to shift away from assumptions that an analytical framework's categories may easily and without too much risk be extended across different contexts. Rather, comparisons of Vietnamese experience across contexts will tend, if they are to be persuasive, to shift to the use of languages that reflect ontological fluidity, in that what things mean is expected to change over time, without reference to an imagined transcendental and universal 'real'. In this sense, Vietnamese water policy may be usefully understood as an example of how 'success gives voice to the local'.


Viewpoint -€“ The next nexus? Environmental ethics, water policies, and climate change

David Groenfeldt
Water-Culture Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA;

ABSTRACT: Water policies are based on ethical assumptions, and efforts to promote more sustainable policies need to address those underlying values. The history of water policies from 'command-and-control' to more ecological approaches reveals an ethical evolution, but adaptation to climate change will require further ethical shifts. The case of the Santa Fe river in New Mexico (USA) illustrates how values that go unrecognised interfere with sustainable management. Exploring the underlying value dynamics is an essential step in the policy reform process and takes on added urgency in the face of climate change and the need to formulate adaptive water strategies. Bringing the topic of values and ethics into the water policy discourse can help clarify management goals and promote more sustainable practices.


Water policy in Spain (Garrido, A. and Llamas, M.R.; Eds. 2010).
David Sauri


The evolution of the law and politics of water (Dellapenna, J.W. and Gupta, J.; Eds. 2008).
Stefano Burchi


Out of the mainstream: Water rights, politics and identity (Boelens, R.; Getches, D. and Guevara-Gil, A.; Eds. 2010).
Helen Ingram