Spring 2013 Water Seminar Series - Participatory Water Governance: Experiences and Issues from Around the World
Social participation in water governance has recently become a reality in many economies and societies. Characterized by the direct involvement of an array of people in decision-making and implementation of water policy or management, at a minimum, social participation involves individuals and/or collectives having an opportunity to express their voices and articulate their arguments in public forums.Understanding the growing interest in participatory or collaborative water management involves uncovering larger political, economic, and cultural trends of recent decades which frame participatory actions. This presentation draws upon severalcases from around the world by a group of scholars and practitioners that I have worked with in examining participation as it relates to water rights definition, hydropower dam construction, urban river renewal, irrigation organizations, water development, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), river basin management, water policy implementation and judicial decision-making in water conflicts. Yet there are commonalities in participatory experiences across this broad spectrum of water issues. Calls for inclusion and social participation have not disappeared and are unlikely to, particularly for those engaged with democratization as social participation continues to be connected with the goals of rectifying social inequities, responding appropriately to environmental disturbances, and transforming structures of power. Attempts to level the terrain of social equity through participatory water governance remain appealing largely because genuine participation of the disenfranchised in water management may build bases of power and change networks of social equity. Yet the constraints to genuine broad-based social participation are undeniable. As translating social demands and coping with public interests within water management have become a reality in many parts of the globe during recent decades, many challenges have cropped up. This presentation considers dimensions in which power regulation, social equity, and democracy-building are connected with social participation that are only beginning to be analysed for the water sector.
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