We have collated Case Studies on topics like Transboundary Disputes, Contending Water Uses, Water Quality, Micro-level Disputes and more.
Read more on this page.
View and Download Posters about Water Conflicts hosted on this site.
Though there is a lot of talk about water conflicts, including the oft quoted remark that the Third World War would be fought over water, there is very little systematic work on documenting water conflicts. The Forum and its participants have already done some work in this direction and in fact the Forum owes its formation to the interaction initiated by this documentation effort. In 2004, some of them collected and put together the information on a few of the better known water conflicts in South India had been and published a summary of the cases published as a small booklet by Doraiswamy R. and Biksham Gujja, Understanding Water Conflicts: Case Studies from South India.
Later, with the participation of nearly 100 authors, the Forum documented 63 cases of water conflicts in India, concentrating on Peninsular India. These cases have now been published as a book, Water Conflicts in India: A Million Revolts in the Making by Routledge. The book was released at a function held at India International Center in Delhi on 13th December 2006. Prof. Saif-ud-Din-Soz, Minister, Water Resources, Government of India, released the book. The publication was followed by a panel discussion having senior scholar Dr. Kirit Parikh as the chairperson and some eminent experts in the water research arena like Professor Y. K. Alagh, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, and Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan as panelists.)
The book is a modest, first attempt to capture in compendium form, a large number of cases representing a wide variety of water conflicts across India. It is largely a pre-analytical documentation that aims at building up an information base that can later make possible a deeper analysis. Its sixty-three case studies are classified into broad themes: according to the following themes a) Conflicts over contending water uses; b) Conflicts over equity, access and allocations; c) Conflicts over water quality; d) Conflicts over sand excavation and mining; e) Micro-level conflicts; f) Conflicts over dams and displacement; g) Transboundary conflicts and h) Conflicts over privatisation and supported by eight thematic reviews and one overarching introductory article.
Economic and Political Weekly brought out a special issue on water conflicts based on the Compendium featuring 18 of the case studies included.
However, the work is far from over. For example, the compendium concentrated mostly, though not wholly, on Peninsular India; it did not cover urban water conflicts or flood related conflicts. There are many such areas where work on documentation still needs to be done. The Forum encourages institutions and individuals to undertake this work. However, there is a need to have clear guidelines about the documentation so that the information is reliable, is not one-sided and will contribute to conflict resolution and prevention. There is a need for widest possible participation and access but also to maintain quality, reliability, authenticity and utility.
Documentation carried out by the Forum is already available on the website. We would like as many people to contribute case studies as they can. The format that we used in our earlier compendium is available and for the time being you may contribute a case study in this format and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will put it up on the website after it is reviewed. You can also help us evolve methods and guidelines. Send us your suggestions at email@example.com.
Documentation or analysis of conflict is one thing, to enter into conflict resolution is quite another. It is a big, big leap. But at the same time, what worth is conflict documentation alone unless it can contribute to the mitigation, resolution and prevention of conflicts? It is with this in mind that the Forum is proposing to cautiously move into a phase of activity that involves conflict resolution and prevention.
As is obvious, conflict resolution efforts will be heavily influenced by who the conflicting parties are, how the Forum relates to them and what the Forum has to bring to the table. Much depends on whether the Forum can build trust in the conflicting parties about its fairness, expertise, credibility and its ability to rise above partisan interests in the solutions it suggests. These are requirements that cannot be fulfilled in a short time and require sustained and patient work over a fairly long period. The Forum therefore intends to be involved in concrete conflict resolution activity only in a few cases in a couple of states in conflicts that are prima facie tractable and where conflict resolving alternatives are, or at least their outlines, are visible and where there is potential for Forum members/participants to establish relations with the conflicting parties.
We expect that besides the obvious contribution to resolving that particular conflict, the effort will also contribute to wider learning on conflicts and their resolution. We will be able to learn something about conflict resolution methodologies that need to be developed, about the policy implications and legal mechanisms required for conflict resolution. This is important because it is our experience that lack of a constitutional institutionalized conflict resolution mechanism is an important element in the emergence and perpetuation of water conflicts.
It is widely acknowledged that prevention is better than cure. Why wait for a conflict to emerge in order to resolve it? To prevent water conflicts we must be able to anticipate conflicts, engage in policy advocacy, and demonstrate through our own efforts as well as those of others, what physical, grassroots measures are required for reducing and/or adequately and fairly managing demand for water. This is a vast area. It ranges from measures aimed at increased water productivity, at increased social and economic mobility of water, at increased water use efficiency, to measures involving water pricing and other incentives to save water, rights based allocation mechanisms, including right to water required for livelihoods, etc.
How we understand water conflicts becomes a key issue in conflict prevention. Policy action is particularly urgent given the scale and nature of large infrastructure projects currently proposed for the water sector, most of which, expert analysis shows, will actually reduce the social and economic mobility of water and create new water conflicts rather than solve existing ones. Many studies and assessments have shown that as far as policy is concerned, water conflicts in India are due to lack of proper frameworks and underlying inter-related issues that need to be tackled in order to avoid water conflicts. Some of the more important ones are as follows:
Most importantly although India seems to have developed mechanisms (albeit limited) that establish agreement with its neighbours on water sharing or resolving disputes, there is as yet no clear mechanism to share water between or within states. The proposed initiative by the Prime Minister on a National River Conservation Authority (NRCA) provides an excellent and timely opportunity for civil society to intervene in the evolution of a right policy framework to prevent, avoid, and resolve water conflicts while taking into consideration some of the innovative ideas and strategies that have evolved in water resources management in the recent times.
The Forum’s work does not take place in a vacuum. The Forum's work acknowledges, complements, adds value to and generally supports work that is already being done by NGOs, civil society groups and people’s organizations. Networking is therefore an important function. The forum therefore aims at and encourages a very wide process of network building. Networking will of course include dialogue, but will also include networking a) action research leading to hands on experience (and hence increased credibility); b) outreach, especially to local bodies; and c) learning from other initiatives and the creation of and the dissemination of an expanding collective knowledge base
We invite everyone to join this initiative.
Forum in its initial phase received financial support by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The activities of the present phase are partially supported by Arghyam, Bangalore. The Forum is also looking for more resources to fully operationalise the activities planned in this phase. So we appeal to donor agencies to come forward and support this initiative.