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Decentralization: Resolve or Hide the Problem?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Nastar, Maryam; Islar, Mine
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7278
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Europe
Subject(s): decentralization
water users' associations
Abstract: "Governance of common resources such as water calls for rethinking structure, legal frameworks and property rights. In order to promote the decentralization of water governance, Water User Associations (WUAs) were created in many countries, such as India and Turkey, to operate and maintain irrigation systems as well as take over the responsibility of water distribution among water users. Despite progress in these activities, the efficacy of WUAs in terms of securing water rights for all water users has received criticism in some studies. By looking at the different power dynamics and thus inequalities, this paper assesses the performance of WUAs in Urfa province in Turkey. This includes a closer look at institutional arrangement of WUAs in effectively managing the irrigation systems and protecting water user’s access rights. The result of this study is used to explore the underlying problems associated with WUAs in promoting sustainable water governance in terms of equitable water access and allocation. This paper argues that due to asymmetric power relations in these regions, securing equal water access and allocation is unlikely to be achievable. In other words, in the absence of a fair process of decision-making, WUAs will fail to achieve the intended benefits of decentralization policies. This raises the need to critically assess the premise of structural reforms in the water sector and a careful consideration of the water governance practices in different contexts where inequalities are evident."

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