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Water for the twenty-first century : challenges and misconceptions

This paper critically reviews some of the global debates and narratives concerning water scarcity, water 'crises' and water resources management and shows what they are obscuring. It also examines the various positions on water ranging from those viewing water as an economic good to those viewing water as a human right and the commons. The paper demonstrates how global debates and perspectives tend to draw on rather vague political, economic or theoretical assumptions rather than on empirically grounded facts and realities. Due to their rhetorical and speculative character, their claims tend to be apolitical and divorced from socio-political realities. For example, the narratives of water 'crises' and water wars tend to obscure issues concerning unequal access to and control over water. The 'water as an economic good' narrative which monopolizes the debates risks obscuring the cultural, social and symbolic dimensions of water. It also fails to adequately address questions concerning equity and justice. Similar malaises are to be found in the current debates around the privatization of water services. The paper argues for the need for a greater pluralism in the debates and for more attention to the multifaceted dimensions of water and its various dimensions of water and its various expressions in the everyday contexts within which people live their lives. Thus, there is the need for critical research to map out the mismatch between rhetoric and reality across macro, meso and micro realms, calling for explicit links to be made between water and power and politics (author's abstract)

TitleWater for the twenty-first century : challenges and misconceptions
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsMehta, L.
Secondary TitleWorking paper / IDS
Volumeno. 111
Pagination37 p.
Date Published2000-05-01
PublisherInstitute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex
Place PublishedBrighton, UK
ISSN Number1858643023
Keywordscultural aspects, economic aspects, policies, research, sdipol, sdiwrm, social aspects, water resources management, water shortage
Abstract

This paper critically reviews some of the global debates and narratives concerning water scarcity, water 'crises' and water resources management and shows what they are obscuring. It also examines the various positions on water ranging from those viewing water as an economic good to those viewing water as a human right and the commons. The paper demonstrates how global debates and perspectives tend to draw on rather vague political, economic or theoretical assumptions rather than on empirically grounded facts and realities. Due to their rhetorical and speculative character, their claims tend to be apolitical and divorced from socio-political realities. For example, the narratives of water 'crises' and water wars tend to obscure issues concerning unequal access to and control over water. The 'water as an economic good' narrative which monopolizes the debates risks obscuring the cultural, social and symbolic dimensions of water. It also fails to adequately address questions concerning equity and justice. Similar malaises are to be found in the current debates around the privatization of water services. The paper argues for the need for a greater pluralism in the debates and for more attention to the multifaceted dimensions of water and its various dimensions of water and its various expressions in the everyday contexts within which people live their lives. Thus, there is the need for critical research to map out the mismatch between rhetoric and reality across macro, meso and micro realms, calling for explicit links to be made between water and power and politics (author's abstract)

NotesIncludes references
Custom 1202.3

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Disclaimer

The copyright of the documents on this site remains with the original publishers. The documents may therefore not be redistributed commercially without the permission of the original publishers.