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Lyla Mehta - Research Fellow

Resource Politics; Cities; Gender and Sexuality
T: +44 (0)1273 915677


Annie Lowden

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Lyla Mehta is a Professorial Research Fellow at IDS and a Visiting Professor at Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. She trained as a sociologist (University of Vienna) and has a Ph.d. in Development Studies (University of Sussex).

Her work focuses on water and sanitation, forced displacement and resistance, scarcity, rights and access, resource grabbing and the politics of environment/ development and sustainability. More recently, her projects have addressed peri urban dynamics, the politics of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Africa and uncertainty and climate change from below in India. She has extensive field research in India studying the politics of water scarcity, the linkages between gender, displacement and resistance, access to water in peri urban areas and climate change and uncertainty.

Additionally, she has worked on water management issues in southern Africa and studied the cultural and institutional aspects of sanitation in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia and the scaling of community-led total sanitation. Her work uses the case of water to explore conceptual and empirical questions concerning scarcity, power, politics, uncertainty, rights and access to resources, the contested nature of the 'public' and 'private' and the cultural politics of development. She is currently the water and sanitation domain convenor of the STEPS centre.

This EPSRC project focuses on the 'peri-urban' environment, which includes areas outside cities that are characterised by poor infrastructure, and poor access to formal water and sanitation services.

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This project sees uncertainty as a key barrier to efforts to support social transformation to respond to the challenges posed by climate change.

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This research seeks to link ideas of IWRM as constructed at the global and European level to their translation into narratives and practices in eastern and southern Africa. It will critically examine the interpretations and challenges of IWRM, hopefully contributing to improving water policies and practices and making them locally appropriate.

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Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is a participatory approach that started in Bangladesh and has been spread to varying degrees in India, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, Nepal. To a limited degree, it has also been trialled in some African countries.

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This project examines the role of peri-urban spaces in urban expansion and how resilience can be fostered in these contexts.

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Water is an invisible passenger travelling on and under roads. Roads also act as dikes altering run-off patterns and sometimes even re-arranging watersheds. Road programs and projects directly deal with existing land and water property and user rights: farmers gaining or losing water resources.

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Water scarcity has emerged as a potential 'global crisis' with serious implications for food security, human health and social and economic development. The UN estimates that 2.7 billion people will face water scarcity by 2025. Against a growing alarmism around 'water wars', solutions have been framed to address 'water governance' due to a perceived lack of efficient public sector management.

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The STEPS Centre is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development.

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The Water Justice Programme critically examines the politics and pathways of water and sanitation policy and practice through interdisciplinary research on access, rights and control over these key resources

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Search and filter for all the author's publications by journal, research theme, country and much more.


Impact of Community-led Total Sanitation on Women’s Health in Urban Slums: A Case Study from Kalyani Municipality

IDS Evidence Report 194 (2016)

This Evidence Report seeks to understand the health and other impacts of slum women’s access to sanitation through the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. More details

This is the cover to IDS Policy Briefing 77, 'Learning from Southern Africa on Fair and Effective Integrated Water Resources Management'.

Learning from Southern Africa on Fair and Effective Integrated Water Resources Management

IDS Policy Briefing 77 (2014)

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has been promoted by international donors, global water organisations and financers as the answer to the water crisis in the Global South. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Global Environmental Justice and the Right to Water: The Case of Peri-Urban Cochabamba and Delhi

Geoforum 54 (2014)

This article applies the global environmental justice (GEJ) approach to the problem of universal access to safe and potable water. Nowhere is the challenge more pressing than in peri-urban spaces where the lack of formal water provision and increasing environmental pollution lead to significant challenges for human wellbeing. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Liquid Dynamics: Challenges for Sustainability in the Water Domain

Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water 1.4 (2014)

We argue that debates about access have so far paid insufficient attention to the long-term sustainability of systems and services for accessing water. They have also neglected issues concerning uncertainty and social, environmental, and technological dynamics—particularly through addressing power imbalances and enhancing equity. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Politics of IWRM in Southern Africa

International Journal of Water Resources Development 30.3 (2014)

This article offers an approach to the study of the evolution, spread and uptake of integrated water resources management (IWRM). Specifically, it looks at the flow of IWRM as an idea in international and national fora, its translation and adoption into national contexts, and the on-the-ground practices of IWRM. More details

Thematic Expertise:
Accelerating Sustainability; Citizenship; Climate Change; Climate Change Vulnerability and Resilience; Conflict and Security; Environment; Gender; Migration; Politics and Power; Reducing Inequalities; Rights; Science and Society; Water and Sanitation.

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Geographic Expertise:
South East Asia; Sub Saharan Africa; Bangladesh; Ethiopia; India; Indonesia; South Africa.