Water, politics, and river basin governance: Repoliticizingapproaches to river basin management


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Presented at the BFP Special session in the 13th World Water Congress, Montpelier, France

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Water, politics, and river basin governance: Repoliticizingapproaches to river basin management

  1. 1. Water, politics, and river basin governance: Repoliticizing approaches to river basin management Francois Molle
  2. 2. Conventional view Supply-demand; IWRM and solutions couched in terms of capital investments, provision of expert knowledge, institutional reforms Political ecological approach Interventions on hydro/ecological systems by different categories of stakeholders characterized by different political, decision-making and discursive power, and varied access to resources, tend to generate costs, benefits, and risk which spread unevenly across spatial and temporal scales and across social groups. 1. River basin interconnectedness (redistribution of C/B/R) 2. River basin overbuilding (generating scarcity) 3. Justifying interventions & discursive power
  3. 3. 1. Interconnectedness Rainfall Spring watertable River Aquifers are not additional reserves
  4. 4. Upstream downstream Variable Upstream diversion Water harvesting Cities out-pumping Wells on qanats; Quantity scheme on (or small tanks) on a irrigation wells deep wells on downstream downstream dam shallow wells irrigation area Cities or industries Diffuse pollution of Cities contaminating Diffuse agricultural Quality on irrigated agriculture on city groundwater used in pollution on village agriculture supplies pumping irrigation groundwater-based water supply Hydropower Small tanks delay Hydropower Water harvesting Timing generation on large onset of wet season generation on reduces runoff/flood irrigation schemes or flows and affect wetland ecosystems and downstream fisheries biological cues groundwater recharge Large-scale Overgrazing, or Dam retaining silt Diffuse deforestation Sediment load deforestation on erosion in small- vs. fertilization of impact on silt load reservoirs holder agriculture on downstream and delta fanning reservoir (siltation) floodplains Point, large-scale Diffuse, scattered users user or intervention or interventions
  5. 5. 2. Process of overbuilding: creating scarcity Convergence of interests: may create a powerful supportive constituency that will ensure political control over many years (O'Mara 1990) • Local/national politicians Reproduce themselves, secure • Line agencies, bureaucracies budgets; professional gratification • Private companies, consultants • Funding institutions Business opportunities) The McNamara effect, or the “lending culture”; Incentives to enlarge loan portfolio; little sanction in case of a failed project.
  6. 6. The process of basin overbuilding Overbuilding of river basins More call for more water Overextension of resource development facilities (irrig) More water shortages and crises
  7. 7. 3. Justifying interventions • Use of overriding meta-justifications ('powering development'; 'poor people cannot wait',…) • Securitization (National security; 'we need to feed ourselves', 'we cannot depend on our neighbors', • TINA (closing debates) • Use of hegemonic concepts (economic dimension, IWRM, river basin management, etc)
  8. 8. Conclusions: Repoliticizing river basin management River basin development processes (and overbuilding) as well as management decisions cannot be understood from a mere technical point of view They entail critical redistribution of costs/benefits/risk, particularly environmental changes This redistribution is spatial, but also social and highly political
  9. 9. …the end… Thank you for your attention !