SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Water and Development: Commodification, Ecology and Globalisation (Development Studies)

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 2
This module is offered together with its companion module Water Law: Justice and Governance taught in Term 1. While the two modules are separate units, they are conceived jointly and both co-taught equally by Professor Mollinga and Professor Cullet.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module examines the relation between water and development in the broader context of the governance framework that is increasingly influenced by conflicts over the resource. It seeks to provide students with a broad understanding of the multi-faceted issues arising in the water sector from the local to the international level. It uses national case studies, as well as regional international issues to analyse the multiplicity of issues arising in the water sector.

The module focuses on how legal, governance and policy frameworks for water resources have been contested in recent decades, an era of intensifying (neo)liberalisation and globalisation, and rapid economic growth in many parts of the world. The module 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 module 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 situated in broader debates on global environmental governance. The module critically examines the institutional arrangement for water governance, and analyses contemporary challenges to water resource governance in terms of evolving regulatory frameworks and processes of democratisation.

The module 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.

At the end of the module, the student should be able to demonstrate:

  • the ability to demonstrate the ability to understand and analyse issues concerning water governance and regulation from a broad perspective encompassing their economic, social and environmental dimensions.
  • a knowledge of basic concepts and principles underlying the governance, regulation, management and conservation of water, focusing on national, regional examples in the international context.


Teaching will take the form of a weekly two hour seminar.

Method of assessment

100% coursework. Students will be expected to submit one essay worth 70% and a book review worth 30% of the final grade. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply. 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules