World Water Week: Lyla Mehta


Published on

Presentation given by Lyla Mehta at World Water Week in Stockholm on August 21 2009, based STEPS Centre's projects. For more information see:

Published in: Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • Some key general features and dimensions of the STEPS Centre’s work that shape our overall ‘take’ on the questions being explored by this panel
  • This picture represents the amount of freshwater available for human consumption - look at it and think we are running out of water.. climate change, ‘water wars’, famine and oil threats still appear as news stories. Resource scarcity is still linked with population growth, growing environmental conflicts and science and technology or innovation are usually evoked as the appropriate ‘solutions.’ Scarcity remains an all-pervasive fact of our lives . But what is scarcity? Why has blame been attributed to it for many of humankind’s woes, for centuries? Why is it so all-pervasive and does its all pervasive character help or hinder us in governing the allocation and distribution of crucial resources such as water, oil, food and so on? Are there alternative viewings of ‘scarcity’ and better ways to talk about finite resources?
  • World Water Week: Lyla Mehta

    1. 1. Liquid Dynamics: Rethinking Sustainability in Water and Sanitation Lyla Mehta IDS/ STEPS Centre Noragric
    2. 2. How can we identify and build pathways to Sustainability – that link technology and environment with reduced poverty and social injustice – in a complex, dynamic world?
    3. 3. The STEPS Centre <ul><li>ESRC funded – hosted by IDS and SPRU </li></ul><ul><li>An interdisciplinary approach : social and natural sciences; development studies (IDS) and science and technology studies (SPRU) </li></ul><ul><li>Global partnerships </li></ul><ul><li>Linking theoretical/conceptual work and practical challenges </li></ul>
    4. 4. System dynamics and Sustainability: A STEPS take <ul><li>Social, ecological and technological systems are inherently dynamic, but dynamics often ignored in policy </li></ul><ul><li>The notion of ‘pathway’ conveys the idea that how systems dynamically interact and change over time gives rise to particular trajectories of development </li></ul><ul><li>Distinguish between s ustainability of a system (its capacity to withstand disruptions and maintain functions) and the S ustainability of a system, which is an explicitly normative concept – i. e. depends on how particular individuals perceive system dynamics, and what they identify as the most important factors/goals </li></ul>
    5. 5. in complex, dynamic, uncertain & socially-contingent systems Interdisciplinary approach: social & natural sciences; development studies & STS – ‘pro-poor’ focus farming in Kenya seeds in Argentina antibiotics in China urban water in India
    6. 6. Building the STEPS pathways approach <ul><li>A normative approach </li></ul><ul><li>Framing </li></ul><ul><li>Actors, power </li></ul><ul><li>Dealing with incomplete knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>From knowledge to action </li></ul><ul><li>Pathways and politics </li></ul>
    7. 7. Current faultlines in water and sanitation <ul><li>Policy debates and assessments are often disconnected from everyday realities of marginalised and poor women and men; </li></ul><ul><li>Current approaches do not address ‘ liquid dynamics’ – patterns of complexity and interaction between the social, technological and ecological </li></ul>
    8. 8. Who is shaping the debate? <ul><li>Dominant debates framed by key global players (WWC; World Bank; GWP; CGIAR system) </li></ul><ul><li>Universalised discourses; technocentric; aggregate numbers (e.g. scarcity) </li></ul><ul><li>Primacy of first world definitions (e.g. improved supply or safe) v/s local experiences </li></ul><ul><li>No critical reflection </li></ul><ul><li>Top down and disconnected – (e.g. Behaviour change) </li></ul><ul><li>Contentious politics and struggles over access and meaning </li></ul>
    9. 9. Are we running out? What is scarcity?
    10. 10. Living with scarcity
    11. 11. Why does it matter? <ul><li>Scarcity is not natural </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘manufacture’ of scarcity to suit the interests of powerful actors </li></ul><ul><li>Scarcity as a technical term (e.g. conflict ) </li></ul><ul><li>Science and technology as the ‘solutions’ </li></ul><ul><li>Technology as the both the ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ (e.g. privatisation models) and site of politics </li></ul><ul><li>Responses to scarcity not neutral but as part of socio-political choices </li></ul><ul><li>Scare of scarcity – colonizing the future </li></ul>
    12. 12. Understanding water dynamics <ul><li>Social (social developments; social relations; discourses) </li></ul><ul><li>Technological (technological change; fixes) </li></ul><ul><li>Environmental (hydrological, health vectors) </li></ul><ul><li>Is it reflexive? (whose system counts, who is framing the debate); </li></ul><ul><li>Is it pro-poor? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it resilient, durable and able to withstand shocks over time? </li></ul>
    13. 13. Sustainability and its framings <ul><li>Stability, durability, robustness and resilience are properties of sustainability </li></ul><ul><li>But whose sustainability counts? Which goals are prioritised and by whom? </li></ul><ul><li>IWRM discourses focus on equitable sustainability </li></ul><ul><li>But fuzzy; not enough attention to power relations and political rearrangements </li></ul>
    14. 14. Pro poor sustainability <ul><li>Need to move beyond access to ‘functionality’ of water access (services that people get and value; meaning along with robustness and resilience; </li></ul><ul><li>Interactions of complex social, technological and environmental processes are key; </li></ul><ul><li>Need to also meet normative goals such as poverty reduction and social justice </li></ul><ul><li>Stability, durability, robustness, resilience will be valued in different ways.. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Governance challenges <ul><li>From centralised to decentralised systems </li></ul><ul><li>Local institutions managing water </li></ul><ul><li>Community driven processes </li></ul><ul><li>Rights, equity and water allocation </li></ul><ul><li>The rise of neo liberalism and privatisation </li></ul>
    16. 16. What’s missing in water governance? <ul><li>Politics of knowledge and decision making </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of reflexivity of powerful institutions that drown out other perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>Is water governance too global? Universal solutions as opposed to contextualised understandings </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of attention to scale </li></ul>
    17. 17. Designing appraisal <ul><li>CBAs and large dams </li></ul><ul><li>Over emphasis on direct financial costs; </li></ul><ul><li>Legitimizing one solution – no discussions of alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>One size fits all vs diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Danger of technocratic risk assessments </li></ul><ul><li>Participation as rubber stamping exercise </li></ul>
    18. 18. Conclusions <ul><li>Disconnect between globalised assessments and local people’s understandings of liquid dynamics </li></ul><ul><li>Powerful actors framings legitimise certain interventions that don’t benefit all </li></ul><ul><li>Incomplete knowledge of uncertainties concerning scarcity, climate change </li></ul><ul><li>Complex social and biophysical dynamics rarely addressed together </li></ul>
    19. 20. Peri-urban Sustainability in South Asia <ul><li>Empirical case study Ghaziabad - Delhi NCR (JNU/Sarai/Sussex/natural and social scientists and policy advocacy groups from earlier DFID funded work) </li></ul><ul><li>Entry point WATER but emphasis on cross-domain work </li></ul><ul><li>Peri urban falling in between the cracks – organised irresponsibility regarding watsan provision </li></ul>
    20. 21. Sustainability and the Peri-urban? Highly contested zone. Complementarities leading to opportunities but also exclusions Increasing environmental degradation and increasing marginalisation. Lack of services, lack of regulation, access deficit, weakened social capital. Ambiguity, informality, illegality Increasing recognition of problems, but lack of approaches to manage so that rural-urban synergies can be realised and environment degradation and poverty addressed.
    21. 22. <ul><li>Identify actors and their positionality in relation to peri-urban water management. </li></ul><ul><li>Consultations of framings, narratives aspirations </li></ul><ul><li>Mobilisation of the poor for rights and services </li></ul><ul><li>Examination of how Sustainability/non-Sustainability has been institutionalized in Delhi, and the opportunities for opening up socially-just processes of decision-making </li></ul>
    22. 23. Research activities <ul><li>How do the poor mobilise for good rights and services? </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement amongst key stakeholder groups regarding the dominant and alternative pathways and how they unfold over time. </li></ul><ul><li>Examination of how Sustainability/non-Sustainability has been institutionalized in Delhi, and the opportunities for opening up socially-just processes of decision-making </li></ul>
    23. 24. Field insights: Diverse framings of the water system and management goals. <ul><li>Linking access and quality </li></ul><ul><li>Linking distant supply and planning regimes </li></ul><ul><li>Linking supply and waste management </li></ul><ul><li>Linking formal and informal systems </li></ul><ul><li>Spatial focus vs equity issues </li></ul><ul><li>Actual peri-urban water use practices not recognised </li></ul><ul><li>Many peri-urban dwellers invisible to the central planning system </li></ul><ul><li>Little expectation from the formal system amongst peri-urban communities </li></ul>
    24. 25. Dominant narratives and pathways <ul><li>Universal ‘safe’ access via piped water supply </li></ul><ul><li>Cost recovery and commodification. Providers need to access credit from the market. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Making Water Safe’ (technology and quality) water filter industry, bottled water, S+ T, Diverse notions/standards of pollution, risk, wastewater treatment, sewerage </li></ul>
    25. 26. <ul><li>By necessity: Illegal/informal access </li></ul><ul><li>(the legality-illegality continuum/ visibility-invisibility interplay) </li></ul><ul><li>By choice: Opting out (purchase/power/patronage/mobilisation) </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple sources and uses of water </li></ul><ul><li>Water safety and self reliance </li></ul>Field insights: Coping strategies
    26. 27. <ul><li>Incomplete knowledge and unrecognised cross-sectoral linkages (water-health-agriculture) </li></ul><ul><li>People presented with new risks </li></ul><ul><li>Certain risks highlighted over others </li></ul><ul><li>Assuming responsibility to control risk </li></ul><ul><li>Technologies presented as reducing risk </li></ul><ul><li>Various tactics to sell technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Language of science and guarantee of safety </li></ul>Notions of risk, and technological choices available to the poor
    27. 28. How should peri-urban Sustainability be defined and sought? Recognise conflicts between… <ul><li>Access and Quality </li></ul><ul><li>Access and sustainability </li></ul><ul><li>Justice and illegality </li></ul><ul><li>Good governance and social justice </li></ul><ul><li>      </li></ul>
    28. 29. Thank You! S ocial T echnological and E nvironmental P athways to S ustainability