Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has emerged as a key approach in the water sector in the past decade. However, IWRM has not produced the anticipated socio-economic, political and ecological outcomes due to the uncertainty and complexity of river basins and the plural, overlapping and competing formal and informal legal and customary systems in the African context.
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 (Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe). It will critically examine the interpretations and challenges of IWRM, hopefully contributing to improving water policies and practices and making them locally appropriate.
From an African perspective, the research is of fundamental importance as there is a huge potential to considerably improve the availability of water for poverty reduction and inclusive growth. IWRM will introduce new normative orders which opens up spaces for reform but also closes down a number of alternative framings and opportunities for various actors. This makes it important to ask who is gaining or losing from these processes.
The project will study various levels of interaction: key policy events and forums at the international and regional level, in-depth comparative case study of national water reform processes and detailed fieldwork in major river basins in all four countries focusing on hotspots. A variety of research methods will be employed: desk study, semi-structured interviews and focussed group discussions with stakeholders and observations of changing water management practices and social/gender relations
The project will contribute to ongoing debates in:
- The boundary politics between expert knowledge and epistemic communities
- Policy processes
- Sociology and anthropology of water and development
- Political ecology of water reform and IWRM
Project Manager: Lyla Mehta