Viewpoint - Swimming against the current: Questioning development policy and practice

Kurt Mørck Jensen
Senior Analyst, Danish Institute for International Studies and Senior Adviser, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Danida), kum@diis.dk

ABSTRACT: The water world is dominated by normative policies prescribing what "good development" is all about. It is a universe of its own where policies live their own lives and feed in and out of each other. As new buzzwords continue to be invented or reinvented, policies continue to maintain their shiny images of how water resources or water supply should be managed. There are many water professionals acting as missionaries in the service of policies but probably less professionals acting up against blindfolded policy promotion. It is when water policies are being implemented in the real world that the trouble starts. In spite of their well-intended mission, water policies often suffer shipwreck on the socio-economic and political realities in developing countries. Through cases from India and the Mekong, the author demonstrates what happens when normative water polices are forced out of their comfort zone and into social and political realities. Although policies are made of stubborn material they need to be questioned through continuous analytical insight into developing country realities. But undertaking critical analysis and questioning the wisdom of water policies is easier said than done. It takes a lot of effort to swim against the policy current.

KEYWORDS: Water policies, water resources, water supply, Integrated Water Resources Management, river basin management, India, the Mekong, politics