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Unravelling Institutional Complexity: Actors and Rules Negotiating Water in Indian Himalayas

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Saravanan, V. S.; McDonald, Geoff; Van Horen, Basil; David, I. P.; Saleth, Rathinasamy Maria
Conference: Survival of the Commons: Mounting Challenges and New Realities, the Eleventh Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Conf. Date: June 19-23, 2006
Date: 2006
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/477
Sector: Social Organization
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
water resources
agent-based computational economics
Abstract: "Institutions integrate in a complex manner across levels in shaping and reshaping water resource management. Unraveling the complex interaction among institutions requires identifying the role of actors and rules in managing water resource. New institutionalisms across social sciences are critically evaluated for a framework to analyse interactions and the relationship between land, water and societies. The paper aims to analyse the interactive nature of actors and rules: (i) influencing water policy and administration; (ii) building capability of actors to manage water crisis; and (iii) building capability of agents to negotiate towards seeking alternatives for a desired change. These objectives are examined to a core water-related issue applicable in each of the four socio-economically and hydrologically distinct hamlets selected from two watersheds in Himachal Pradesh, India. Different research investigations (primary, lead, follow-up and check) were carried by combining different research methods. "The study adopts a systematic approach to identify actors and rules integrating at various arenas to manage water. These arenas representing adaptive cycle of resource management are obscure, not clearly represented, but are hierarchically interlinked forming a 'Panarchy'. The study evaluates institutions in these arenas in four phases of adaptive cycle: policy formulation, implementation, attempts to overcome water crisis; and ability of agents to seek institutional alternatives. This helps in identifying rules that can enable actors to consciously design and self- organise towards integrating water management. The study reveals diverse actors in shaping water policies, but the absence of scope and information rules constrains these actors in taking informed decisions for a sustainable future. Implementation of these policies is controlled by statutory public actors who provide boundary rules for other actors in the watershed well endowed with infrastructure facilities, while it is socially embedded actors in remote watershed. However, it is statutory public actors who provide authority rules thereby knowingly or unknowingly facilitating inequitable distribution of water. Socially embedded actors provide all the rules required for actors to build their capability to manage water. Each of these actions is facilitated by agents who are located at various levels in space and time to integrate various actors and rules to institute change. In brief the study highlights the importance of infrastructure development for poverty alleviation, information sharing and importance of sectoral agencies to remain interactive. The findings question some of the contemporary understanding of decentralisation, resilience, collective action and participatory management providing new theoretical grounds for analysing water resource institutions."

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