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The Participative Management of Water through Basins in Mexico: Lack of Experience or Final Failure?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Mollard, Eric; Vargas, Sergio
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1097
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Social Organization
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): IASC
participatory management
water resources
governance and politics
decision making--case studies
institutional analysis
Abstract: "Negotiations around divergent interests concerning the distribution of water in the Lerma-Chapala river basin are among the most advanced ones in Mexico. More than ten years after the first agreements and the creation of a river basin committee, negotiation is going through a period of stagnation. "This communication firstly recalls how the negotiations are embedded in the decentralization policy engaged by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari's government in 1992. Then, we detail the actors, their strategy and their interactions within the basin committee and within the whole framework of governability, which characterizes natural resource management in Mexico. Lastly, we discuss the assumptions of institutional inconsistency, social practices resulting from the past, weak environmental culture, and constraints of situation (electoral calendar, water shortage). Finally, on the basis of the actors' performance within the context of contemporary Mexico, the authors propose a double political reading. The first one deals about 'politicization' of water where no dialogue is possible without a really autonomous representatineness of users in the river basin council. Obstructions to dialogue by some powerful stakeholders would result, in a second reading, from the absence of some conditions of governability, be the framework of regulation participative or not. These minimal conditions are not specific to water management but include the whole policies of natural resource management. "Social participation became a current issue during the last few years in the international, national and local agendas. Everyone defends this idea, from researchers and NGO to politicians and citizens. This quasi-unanimity mirrors the legitimate aspiration of each of us to be heard, whereas this democratic practice is also judged to be an effective means to bring a groups decision closer to social request, local interest, and finally, common good. Additionally, social participation produces legitimacy, so that institutions and elected representatives are strengthened. "Not only we (the authors) do not call these postulates into question, but we consider that, for Mexico, which leaves several decades of authoritarianism and experiences, during this transition period, an unprecedented crisis of confidence, such a participative democracy is the only way to rebuild confidence, credibility, and legitimacy towards institutions and representatives. "However, the analysis of a participative experience in designing a regional policy for natural resources management highlights gaps for public action. These gaps can occur from the capacity to make a negotiated decision, at the moment of decision enforcement or later with turmoil by the most affected group. The first condition is general when we deal about social participation, whereas the second one is specific to the Mexican context."

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