Enabling Sustainability in Water Users’ Associations: Or, What Balinese Irrigation Communities Can Tell Us about Village Water Supply Committees in South Africa and India

By Nitish Jha.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper investigates the factors that enable sustainability in Water Users’ Associations (WUAs) in three different parts of the world: India, South Africa and Indonesia.

In India and South Africa, provincial governments constrained by the scarcity of personnel and finances are opting to transfer the management of water resources to the communities that use them. This transfer is made possible by the establishment of Village Water Supply Committees (VWSCs) charged with overseeing the operation and maintenance of schemes for rural drinking water supply. However, the experience of creating these community-managed WUAs has not been an unmitigated success.

In Bali, Indonesia, a strong indigenous civic tradition undergirds long-enduring Irrigation Communities called subaks. Using anthropological insights from the manner in which subaks operate to ensure environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability, this paper draws lessons for VWSCs in India and South Africa.

It argues that cultural sustainability can promote good ecological practice, sound economic management and robust forms of social organisation and that ignoring it places at risk the overall sustainability of community-managed resources. Equity or social justice needs to be an explicitly-stated goal in the drive for sustainability. For this reason, policy makers and development practitioners need to establish institutional frameworks that deal effectively with any values and beliefs that foster divisiveness, which makes sustainability hard to achieve and viable VWSCs difficult to create.

Keywords: Community-Based Resource Management, Sustainability, Water Users’ Associations, Rural Water Supply, Village Water Supply Committees, Irrigation Communities, Equity, Institutional Rules, Subak, Indonesia, India, South Africa

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 540.600KB).

Dr. Nitish Jha

Independent Researcher, Chennai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Nitish Jha earned his doctorate in anthropology from Brandeis University, USA, and subsequently worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the International Water Management Institute in Pretoria, South Africa. His research interests include the governance of common property regimes, property theory, natural resource management in the context of socioeconomic development, multiple water use systems, and institutions and policies for integrated water resources management. He currently lives in Chennai, India, where he works as an independent researcher as well as a consultant on development projects. He is currently writing a book based on extensive fieldwork he conducted in Bali, Indonesia.

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