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Department of Development Studies

Water Resources: Conflict and Governance (MSc RID)

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

This course is only available to students enrolled on the MSc Research for International Development programme.

This course examines the contestation of water resources governance and management in Asia. It seeks to provide students with an interdisciplinary understanding of the multi-faceted issues arising in the water sector from the sub-regional to the national to the transboundary level. It focuses in large part on India but also examines other countries in the region, regional interactions as well as the international context within which water resources governance and management takes place in Asia.
The course focuses on how legal, governance, and policy frameworks for water resources in Asia have been contested in recent decades, an era of intensifying (neo) liberalisation and globalisation, and rapid economic growth in many parts of the Asian region. The course examines the structures, practices and discourses of water resources’ political contestation. At sub-regional level it focuses on domains/sub-sectors like groundwater irrigation and surface water irrigation, to address issues like institutional approaches to unequal water access and distribution. At national level it focuses on domains/sub-sectors like large dam building and wetlands, to address issues like displacement & resettlement through water infrastructure development and environmental justice. At transboundary level the course focuses on inter-state negotiations of river basin governance and management, to address issues like benefit sharing and water security.  For each configuration of level, domain/sub-sector and issue analytical frameworks will be presented and compared, and situated in broader debates on global environmental governance. The course critically examines the institutional arrangements for water governance, and analyses contemporary challenges to Asian water resources governance in terms of evolving regulatory frameworks and processes of democratisation.
The course provides a complement to the offering in environment and natural resources law, governance, and development in an area that is increasingly central both in terms of conservation and use.

This course will be delivered alongside the parallel course worth 22.5 CATS credits. Students will have the opportunity to attend all lectures and tutorials, but the examinable component will be approximately 75% of the 22.5 CATS credits syllabus. The following topics will not be part of the examinable component of this course: Week 2: Irrigation law in India – from colonial acts to water user association legislation and Week 5: The contested transformation of tradition: water resources management in South Indian tanks

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to understand and analyse issues concerning the contestation of water resources governance and management in Asia, from an interdisciplinary perspective.  Students will acquire knowledge of basic concepts and principles underlying the contested governance and management of different water sub-sectors in Asia, focusing at different levels: sub-regional, national and trans-boundary.  Students will learn to think through contemporary challenges in Asian water resources governance.


Teaching takes place through a weekly 2 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial.

Method of assessment

60% examination, 40% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit one essay of no more than 4000 words, worth 40%. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.