Marginalisation and Power Dynamics in River Governance

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  • Time: 12:30 - 13:30
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Postgraduate Researcher and CGD member Shivani Singhal presented this talk as part of the School of Politics and International Studies’ Research Seminar series:

Abstract

Water governance of river Yamuna in Delhi and how it is deliberately being used to further marginalise sections of the community will be discussed in the seminar. Today, 70% of India’s rivers are polluted. India has been taking steps for environmental protection since 1972 after the United Nations Stockholm Conference. However, it has ranked 168/180 in the Environmental Performance Index. Rivers are used for development, livelihood, and cultural purposes. As a result, their toxic nature becomes a pressing matter. This is mainly due to governance failures and not technological shortages. While water governance is as old as the civilisation itself, there has been a shift in the global discourse from the government to governance. Water governance includes both formal and informal structures where political, social, economic, administrative, and cultural systems develop and manage water resources. This change is based on the multilevel, polycentric system involving many actors. As a result, there is a need to evaluate social and institutional interdependencies.

The currently followed heavy scientific top-down approach fails to take in the on-ground socio-political realities of day-to-day negotiations around the Yamuna and its pollution of the marginalised and vulnerable section of the society. This leads to fragmented results. There is no space for the very marginalised that are being affected by the pollution to be heard in the linear governance structure. Moreover, despite contrary evidence, they become the targets of clean river initiatives.