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Competing Demand and Management Practices


Velayutham Saravanan

THE POLITICS AND POETICS OF WATER: NATURALISING SCARCITY IN WESTERN INDIA
By Lyla Mehta
Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2005, pp. 396, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 4 April 2006

In recent decades, scarcity of water has been experienced due to an increasing trend in competing demands of the different stakeholders in different countries leading to a number of conflicts within the basin, between the basins of the state and between the states and countries. It has now been aggravated manifold due to the demand from different users like agriculture and industry besides domestic water supply. Increasing demand for fresh water on one hand and limited as well as polluted water supply on the other hand have made the situation worse in recent years in most of the developing countries. The problem has now been further aggravated owing to the decline of water quality due to pollution invariably by the different users, resulting in ‘water market’. Diverting the water, particularly through the larger dams from the natural flow of the river to the new areas has also become very difficult from the ecological and environment and displacement and rehabilitation point of view. Given the macro view, the book attempts to establish the reasons for water scarcity due to competing demand and management practices from the perspectives of social and power relations from the context of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in the Kutch region of Gujarat in Western India.   This book consists of nine chapters. In the first chapter Mehta introduces the research problem from the context of the ongoing debate on the large dams; the factors causing water scarcity and how this water scarcity has been manufactured by the different actors and the impact of state intervention and how the scarcity was naturalized. She attempts to establish how the scarcity was linked with the local institutions, caste, gender, religion, socio-economic, culture, politics and traditional knowledge at the village and regional level using different methods i.e., participatory observation, oral history and archival records.   In the second chapter, the author describes her stay in the village, the experiences she has gained from the different groups of people, the nature of polarization among the different caste people and the nature of politics at the village level in a novelistic narration. Unfortunately, this chapter has not given anything about the subject of the book except caste, gender, cultural and behaviour pattern of the different groups of people from the angles of the author’s perception and opinion. A historical account of changing landscape and socio-cultural identity and political development of Kutch ...


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