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Groundwater Management through the ‘Commons’ Lens: Recognizing Complexity

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Kulkarni, Himanshu
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/10535/7339
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Subject(s): water management
Abstract: "The complex nature and diverse contextual regime of groundwater problems in India compel the development of a strategic approach to groundwater management. The complexity itself is due to the wide diversity not only in the hydrogeological framework that defines the accumulation and movement of groundwater in different physical settings, but also in the social and economic drivers that determine groundwater use patterns and changes therein through a time-line. India is divided into six or seven different ‘settings’ to understand the complexity. Each setting can be described based on hydrogeological systems (including the variability within one setting), the social-economic factors that are influenced by (and which, in turn influence) groundwater resource status and response strategies adopted by policy makers and communities to mitigate groundwater related challenges. Clearly, each setting warrants a strategic outlook if groundwater is to be managed on a ‘commons-basis’. The development of strategies to respond to groundwater over-use and deteriorating groundwater quality require a ‘process-based’ approach, wherein there is a need to redefine the institutional structure that looks into groundwater problems in India. The process-based approach has many advantages over the current ‘institutional silo’ approach. First, it begins with a principle: the principle of perceiving groundwater resources under the category ‘commons’. Further, ‘processes’ are central to addressing groundwater problems and do not necessarily involve one-off solutions that are expected to constitute a ‘pill for all ills’. Second, strategy development can happen efficiently only in a ‘phased’ manner, with each strategy subject to adaptation and refinement as experience is gained."

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