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Institutional Forces Behind Water Conflict In The Ganga Plains

Title:Institutional Forces Behind Water Conflict In The Ganga Plains
Author:Dipak Gyawali
Publication:Geojournal / Springer Science
Enumeration:Vol. 47, No. 3 ,pp. 443 - 452
Abstract:With increased upstream withdrawal of Ganga waters for irrigation and urban industrial uses, Ganga's dry season flow is declining. The heavily populated but marginalised north Indian State of Bihar with its capital at Patna expects the Union government in Delhi to curb the appetite of upstream States; but Delhi's water bureaucracy, having grown within a culture of construction rather than water management, is reluctant to do so. Adding to Patna's anxiety is a new fear in the form of the 1996 Farakka Treaty between India and Bangladesh, an international obligation that Patna fears will further curtail its water rights. Delhi, however, is able to placate Patna with promises of a Kosi High Dam in Nepal on the major tributary of the Ganga closest to Bihar. Because both bureaucracies belong to a social solidarity of hierarchic procedures that would make similar technological choices, Patna is pacified. On the other hand, activist groups in Bihar belonging to a different solidarity, that of egalitarian equity, point to the dismal consequences of past technological choices (embankments) on the land and its poor and continue to oppose this new choice as well. The hierarchic discourse between Patna and Delhi, however, filters out this activist critique and pursues a business-as-usual program of new high dam construction. The purpose of this paper is to examine the institutional background behind such rigid, single-mission policies and the costly surprises and impasse they are prone to. The paper argues that sagaciously providing space for constructive engagement among differing perspectives of the state, market and civil society on Bihar's water problems may minimize this risk.

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