Unjust Waters: Water Allocation Reforms That Produce Hydrosocial Territories in Mumbai’s Hinterlands

Authors: Prakriti Shukla*, Cornell University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Water governance, urban-rural water transfers, water grabbing, urbanization, reallocation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 4:55 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Governors Square 9, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A farmers’ protest in 2018 revealed that the state of Maharashtra in India had diverted ~79% of Surya dam’s water for non-irrigation purposes and metropolitan Mumbai is the biggest beneficiary of this process. This study examines the failure of water reformation policies in achieving distributional equity in urban-rural transfers of water between metropolitan Mumbai and its hinterlands. The research is based on a fieldwork involving 49 semi-structured interviews with quasi-judicial bodies, civil society organizations, planning bodies, water engineers, and affected farmers.

The process of producing public water requires the water to negotiate state interests, community interests, and bio-physical boundaries. This paper uses the conceptual framework of boundaries—formal institutional, informal organizational and natural boundaries, to understand: 1) the bio-political processes that convert water into a regional club good; 2) the role of boundaries in the inequitable allocation of water. The paper then discusses how boundary conditions make equitable allocation of water a difficult task, identifying that: 1) natural boundaries have complicated boundary conditions as they vary across the region; 2) Informal organizational boundaries worsen the problem of differential access to water on a regional scale as the communities have varying power and size, and the economically efficient usage has lobbying power and is favored by the state; 3) the boundaries of formal institutions are either missing or they mismatch the natural boundaries of water; 4) the three boundaries conflict with each other, thereby raising the issue of mismatching scales of governance and the public good being allocated.

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