Water scarcity is considered one of the most pressing problems confronting humankind in the new century. How attuned are global notions of water management to local level understandings and particularities of water scarcity? How is access to and control over water differentiated? By taking the case of water scarcity in western India, this book exposes the underlying social and power relations which usually underlie water crises. Distinguishing between the 'lived'/
'Experienced' and 'constructed' aspects of scarcity the book demonstrates how notions of scarcity are manufactured through political and policy processes. State and popular discourses often portray scarcity as natural and universal. These 'naturalised' notions of scarcity are contrasted with local people's knowledge systems and livelihood strategies that allow them to adapt to temporary scarcities. Largely, only powerful actors benefit from the naturalization of water scarcity, and internationally controversial schemes such as the Sardar Sarovar Project are evoked as panaceas. Examining why all hopes are pinned on this 'water wonder', the book attempts to understand the place of water in local institutions, cosmologies, knowledge systems and cultural practices.
Mehta writes evocatively through a wealth of first-hand accounts, personal testimonies and detailed ethnographic research along with analytical reflections on scarcity and social theory. By focussing on the symbolic as well as material dimensions of resosurce use and the critical linkages between knowledge, power and difference in water related practices, the book will offer fresh perspectives to academics, students, practitioners and policy-makers making sense of resource 'crises' and contemporary issues in environment and development.
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Lyla Mehta's work is a thoughtful and thought provoking contribution by a social scientist with a long-range commitment to understanding the problematique of water. Beginning with a superb ethnography of the perception ;of water in Kutch, she brings out the anthropology of connections to culture, civil society, state and the economic discourse. At the same time by emphasizing connectivity, she shows how dam, water, drought and policy are part of the wider politics of story telling and Mehta is indeed a gifted story teller. This book creates the initial base on which the author will continue to build a wider corpus of scholarship on one of the most compelling problems of the twenty-first century-the politics and the poetics of water.
This fine book exposes the politics behind the notion of scarcity, a taken-for granted driver of international policy debates and of economic thought more generally. Through its rich history and ethnography of water in Kutch, it reveals the dissonance between universalized ideas of scarcity and the ways farmers and pastoralists have long known, used and lived with water fluctuations in this dynamic and unique region. Practical as well as poetic, this beautifully-written account should be read by anyone interested in environmental politics or the anthropology and sociology of development well as in how water might best be managed to meet poor people's needs in dryland India and beyond.
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