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Removing Ropes: Attaching Strings? Drinking Water and Institutional Arrangements

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Agrawal, Arun
Date: 1993
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4388
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): water resources
village organization
Abstract: "This paper, using a case study, examines the institutional dimensions of drinking water provision in Rajasthan. I investigate the thesis that the government treats the provision of drinking water as a technical problem and consequently concocts primarily technical solutions. However, technical solutions while vital, must fail in the absence of attention to institutional arrangements. In the study I detail, lack of attention to appropriate institutions diminished the quality of water provision and increased inefficiency. At the same time, the manner in which government provided water helped those in the village more who owned more assets and who belonged to the upper castes. "I examine government programs with reference to the incentives and opportunities that they present to their clients. Thus much more significantly, I trace inadequacies in government programs to breakdowns in the ability of villagers to solve collective action problems. The explanation I provide, therefore, is relevant to other arguments that suggest development is a top-down process in which villagers have little power to influence what happens; or, programs in the nature of technical 'fixes' are bound to fail; or, government projects invariably favor the rich. At the same time, it goes beyond such arguments."

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