Folder Issue3

October 2011



Reaching the limits of water resources mobilisation: Irrigation development in the Segura river basin, Spain

Carles Sanchis Ibor
Centro Valenciano de Estudios del Riego, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain;
Marta García Mollá
Centro Valenciano de Estudios del Riego, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain;
Llorenç Avellà Reus
Centro Valenciano de Estudios del Riego, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain;
José Carles Genovés
Centro Valenciano de Estudios del Riego, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain;

ABSTRACT: The aim of this paper is to analyse the policy of water resources development implemented in the semiarid watershed of the Segura river during the last century, consisting of irrigation development promotion by means of the provision of new resources. The way in which this policy was implemented generated important conflicts among users, severely damaged riverine ecosystems and, paradoxically, created new water demands, perpetuating an outdated model of management.


A decade of implementing water services reform in Zambia: Review of outcomes, challenges and opportunities

Horman Chitonge
National Research Foundation, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town, South Africa;

ABSTRACT: Zambia has been implementing water sector reforms for the past two decades. These reforms initiated major changes in the organisation and management of water supply services starting from the 1990s culminating in the full-scale commercialisation of water services in major cities and towns. This paper reviews the outcomes of implementing these reforms, focusing on the results of the commercialisation of water services in the last 10 years. Data presented in this paper show that there have been positive developments, but many serious challenges as well. Evidence from the review of the past 10 years suggests that much progress has been made in areas related to management and operation performance, while little success has been recorded in core areas such as expanding the network, service coverage, hours of service, and reducing the affordability burden, especially among lower-income households. The key challenge for the water services sector is to find a workable infrastructural development funding formula that will make it possible to sustain and build on the foundation laid over the past decade.


Editorial: Discursive framing: Debates over small reservoirs in the rural South

Jean-Philippe Venot and Jyothi Krishnan


Water institutions and the 'revival' of tanks in south India: What is at stake locally?

Olivia Aubriot
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France; at the time of the research (2005-2008), the French Institute of Pondicherry, India;
P. Ignatius Prabhakar
SEEDS-India; at the time of the research, the French Institute of Pondicherry, India;

ABSTRACT: In India, the 'revival' of seasonal lake-reservoirs (tanks) is part of decentralisation and participatory management reforms regarding surface water, whereby programmes to rehabilitate these centuries-old infrastructures have made mandatory the creation of formal water users associations (WUAs). In Tamil Nadu, South India, WUAs are created without even taking into account the existence of customary institutions'€™ ways of managing tanks, and thus the WUAs either run parallel to the latter, lead to their decline or ensure continuity with them. Conversely, in Puducherry'€™s tank rehabilitation project, customary institutions are purposely neglected in order to empower marginalised sections of the population. The aim of this article is to compare the impact of creating such a formal association on the decision-making process, taking as an example four formal associations. Whatever the project, its success or otherwise lies in the hands of the local elite -€“ either socio-economic or the new political elite -€“ while all committee members are affiliated to political parties. In such a context, we question the stakes behind being a member of a formal user association and, more specifically, how these associations impact water management, how knowledge about water is acquired -€“ especially with regard to groundwater recharge -€“ and how this vital resource is controlled.


Demystifying 'tradition': The politics of rainwater harvesting in rural Rajasthan, India

Saurabh Gupta
Institute for Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences in the Tropics and Sub-Tropics, University of Hohenheim, Germany;

ABSTRACT: The debate on traditional rainwater harvesting has largely cast the issue in terms of 'for-or-against'. Much intellectual energy has been spent on demonstrating whether traditional rainwater harvesting works or not. Yet, we know very little about how it works in specific localities. This paper seeks to address this analytical question. Taking the case of a Gandhian activist organisation, Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), which has received international recognition for promoting traditional rainwater harvesting by means of small earthen dams (locally known as johads) in Rajasthani villages, this paper explains how a grassroots organisation, while advocating the cause of people'€™s control of their local natural resources, uses and manipulates the concept of 'traditional' for creating a niche for itself in the arena of soil and water conservation. The paper problematises 'traditional' rainwater harvesting and the various positive connotations associated with it in the narrative of the TBS, and highlights the lack of attention given to issues of equity in its interventions. It is suggested that deliberate efforts on the part of grassroots organisations are required to address the issues of equity if the goals of sustainable ecological practices are to be achieved in any meaningful sense.


Local water management of small reservoirs: Lessons from two case studies in Burkina Faso

Hilmy Sally
International Water Management Institute, Ouagadougou Burkina Faso;
Hervé Lévite
International Water Management Institute, Ouagadougou Burkina Faso;
Julien Cour
Independent consultant, Toulouse, France;

ABSTRACT: Burkina Faso is actively pursuing the implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in its development plans. Several policy and institutional mechanisms have been put in place, including the adoption of a national IWRM action plan (PAGIRE) and the establishment so far of 30 local water management committees (Comités Locaux de l'€™Eau, or CLE). The stated purpose of the CLE is to take responsibility for managing water at sub-basin level. The two case studies discussed in this paper illustrate gaps between the policy objective of promoting IWRM on one hand, and the realities associated with its practical on-the-ground implementation on the other. A significant adjustment that occurred in practice is the fact that the two CLE studied have been set up as entities focused on reservoir management, whereas it is envisioned that a CLE would constitute a platform for sub-basin management. This reflects a concern to minimise conflict and optimally manage the country'€™s primary water resource and illustrates the type of pragmatic actions that have to be taken to make IWRM a reality. It is also observed that the local water management committees have not been able to satisfactorily address questions regarding access to and allocation of water though they are crucial for the satisfactory functioning of the reservoirs. Water resources in the reservoirs appear to be controlled by the dominant user. In order to correct this trend, measures to build mutual trust and confidence among water users 'condemned' to work together to manage their common resource are suggested, foremost of which is the need to collect and share reliable data. Awareness of power relationships among water-user groups and building on functioning, already existing formal or informal arrangements for water sharing are key determinants for successful implementation of the water reform process underway.


The politics, development and problems of small irrigation dams in Malawi: Experiences from Mzuzu ADD

Bryson Gwiyani Nkhoma
Mzuzu University, Mzuzu, Malawi;

ABSTRACT: The paper examines the progress made regarding the development of small irrigation dams in Malawi with the view of establishing their significance in improving rural livelihoods in the country. The paper adopts a political economy theory and a qualitative research approach. Evidence from Mzuzu ADD, where small reservoirs acquire specific relevance, shows that despite the efforts made, the development of small dams is making little progress. The paper highlights that problems of top-down planning, high investment costs, negligence of national and local interests, over-dependency on donors, and conflicts over the use of dams -€“ which made large-scale dams unpopular in the 1990s continue to affect the development of small irrigation dams in Malawi. The paper argues that small irrigation dams should not be simplistically seen as a panacea to the problems of large-scale irrigation dams. Like any other projects, small dams are historically and socially constructed through interests of different actors in the local settings, and can only succeed if actors, especially those from formal institutions, develop adaptive learning towards apparent conflicting relations that develop among them in the process of implementation. In the case of Mzuzu ADD, it was the failure of the government to develop this adaptive learning to the contestations and conflicts among these actors that undermined successful implementation of small irrigation dams. The paper recommends the need to consider local circumstances, politics, interests, rights and institutions when investing in small irrigation dams.


Planning and corrupting water resources development: The case of small reservoirs in Ghana

Jean-Philippe Venot
International Water Management Institute, Burkina Faso;
Marc Andreini
International Water Management Institute, Washington, DC;
Crossley Beth Pinkstaff
Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, NY;

ABSTRACT: Agricultural (water) development is once again at the fore of the development agenda of sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, corruption is seen as a major obstacle to the sustainability of future investments in the sector but there is still little empirical evidence on the ways corruption pervades development projects. This paper documents the planning and implementation processes of two specific small reservoir programmes in the north of Ghana. We specifically delve into the dynamics of corruption and interrogate the ways they add to the inherent unpredictability of development planning. We argue that operational limitations of small reservoirs such as poor infrastructure, lack of managerial and organisational capacity at the community level and weak market integration and public support are the symptoms -€“ rather than inherent problems €- of wider lapses in the planning processes that govern the development of small reservoirs in Ghana and worldwide. A suite of petty misconduct and corrupt practices during the planning, tendering, supervision, and administration of contracts for the rehabilitation and construction of small reservoirs results in delays in implementation, poor construction, escalating costs, and ultimately failures of small reservoirs vis-à-vis their intended goals and a widely shared frustration among donor agencies, civil servants, contractors, and communities. Such practices hang on and can only be addressed through a better understanding of the complex web of formal decisions and informal rules that shape the understanding and actions of the state.


Bridging divides for water? Dialogue and access at the 5th World Water Forum

Nícola Ulibarrí
Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford University, CA;

ABSTRACT: The 5th World Water Forum was officially presented as a deliberative democracy where diverse stakeholders could gather to talk about water. However, the conference was marred by significant conflict, ranging from audience complaints to protests, and to alternative political declarations. This paper explores why a Forum designed to 'Bridge Divides for Water' (the official theme) was so contentious that participants were unable to reach any sort of consensus. I explore four hypothesised mechanisms by which the Forum itself counteracted the possibility of Bridging Divides and creating constructive dialogue. First, I argue that, because of cost, security and size, the Forum made many participants feel unable to fully access the Forum and share their opinions. Second, I suggest that the programmatic structure of the Forum promoted simplified ways of talking about water that made translation between perspectives difficult. Third, I contend that the physical space where Forum deliberations occurred institutionalised unequal social arrangements, making certain viewpoints more audible than others. Fourth, I demonstrate that the Turkish host government actively masked contestation to present a 'civilised' Forum to the world.


Privatizing water. Governance failure and the world'€™s urban water crisis (Bakker, K.; 2010).
José Esteban Castro


The meaning of water (Strang, V.; 2004); What is water (Linton, J.; 2010)
Peter P. Mollinga