Adaptation, transformation, and the associated trade-offs in river-based livelihoods in northern Pakistan

Authors: Rebecca Nixon*, Purdue University, Zhao Ma, Purdue University , Bushra Khan, University of Peshawar, Linda Lee, Purdue University
Topics: Natural Resources
Keywords: Adaptation, Pakistan, Water Resources
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Madison A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As in many rivers around the world, water quality and quantity along the Swat and Kabul Rivers of Pakistan are under stress from climate change, industrialization, and increasing populations. As a part of an interdisciplinary, collaborative project to examine water quality, river ecosystem health and river-based livelihoods along the Kabul and Swat Rivers, we completed 25 semi-structured interviews with formal and informal community leaders, farmers, and fishers in the research area. This study asks how farmers and fishers adapt or transform their livelihood strategies to deal with compounding stressors. Specifically, we explore transformation as adaptation in the midst of both long-term stress and short-term shocks and examine water management decision-making at the household and community scales. Our interviews illustrate how water use is negotiated in the midst of competing water needs between domestic use, fisheries, irrigation, hydropower, and industrial development. Our analysis of decision-making and adaptation across water users (by gender, class, ethnicity, sector, location, etc.) shows that many farmers and fishers adapt through livelihood diversification and environmental resource management; however, agency to adapt varies across water users. This results in part from how adaptation and transformation decisions made by households and communities imply explicit and implicit trade-offs temporally and spatially, as well as how households and communities have differentiated power and influence in water management decision-making. These findings contribute to a better understanding of adaptation decision making across water users, the role of transformation as adaptation, and the associated trade-offs in water management.

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