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The Missing Links

Medha Bisht

Edited by Anjal Prakash, Sreoshi Singh, Chanda Gurung Goodrich and S. Janakarajan
Routledge, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 356, Rs. 995.00


Integrated water resource management is one of the most pressing policy issues confronting South Asian countries—not only at the regional but also at the national level. Situated in a contiguous geographical landmass but dissected by various states, the region is home to around one-fourth of the world’s population. However, unlike artificial boundaries drawn on the surface of the earth, which gives rise to distinct nationalist undertones, governance and institutional structures and political regimes, trans-boundary rivers often act as natural connectors to this very diverse landscape of South Asia.   This compendium stemmed out of an international conference and brings together the debates and theoretical frameworks associated with water management. Situated at the intersection of policy and politics, the book, in the words of the editors themselves aims to ‘analyse some of the missing links present in the policies across the countries in South Asia’ (p. 2). Some of the issues identified as common strands to contextualize the effectiveness of South Asian policies are equity, sustainability, gender sensitivity and diversity in managing water resources in South Asian countries. By focussing on these strands, it proposes alternative paths and interrogates the role of the state not as an autonomous agent, a ‘monolith’ as distinct from the society, but as an instrumental extension of markets and civil society organizations. In order to trace the evolution of water policies, water has been situated around the notions of space and time. The role of colonialism in the shaping of water policies has been revisited by some authors, to review the impact of discursive institutional practices and their impact on contemporary water management policies.   The four parts of the book focus on identifying conceptual frameworks theorizing water in South Asia, specific country experiences, the impact of climate change on the water sector and international experiences.   Amita Shah and Seema Kulkarni, perceive water as a space creator, where the gender lens is employed to amplify the connect between water and poverty. It is argued by the authors that water-poverty-gender connect is an important means to go beyond income centric growth. As an analytical framework the authors offer two path trajectories—market driven and process driven—both leading to different policy and institutional outcomes. Tracing the water infrastructure in South Asia to the policies designed in the colonial state, gender for Zwartevreen is one of the missing filters, and this is reflected in the design of water infrastructure ...

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