Introduction to the Special Issue: Water grabbing? Focus on the (re)appropriation of finite water resources

Lyla Mehta
Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK and Noragric, Norway; l.mehta@ids.ac.uk
Gert Jan Veldwisch
Irrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands; gertjan.veldwisch@wur.nl
Jennifer Franco
Transnational Institute, Amsterdam and China Agricultural University, Beijing; jennycfranco@tni.org

ABSTRACT: Recent large-scale land acquisitions for agricultural production (including biofuels), popularly known as 'land grabbing', have attracted headline attention. Water as both a target and driver of this phenomenon has been largely ignored despite the interconnectedness of water and land. This special issue aims to fill this gap and to widen and deepen the lens beyond the confines of the literature'€™s still limited focus on agriculture-driven resource grabbing. The articles in this collection demonstrate that the fluid nature of water and its hydrologic complexity often obscure how water grabbing takes place and what the associated impacts on the environment and diverse social groups are. The fluid properties of water interact with the 'slippery' nature of the grabbing processes: unequal power relations; fuzziness between legality and illegality and formal and informal rights; unclear administrative boundaries and jurisdictions, and fragmented negotiation processes. All these factors combined with the powerful material, discursive and symbolic characteristics of water make 'water grabbing' a site for conflict with potential drastic impacts on the current and future uses and benefits of water, rights as well as changes in tenure relations.

KEYWORDS: Water grabbing, land grabbing, resource conflicts, power relations, water rights, hydrologic complexity, reallocation, neoliberalism