Taking the road less taken: reorienting the state for periurban water security

In this paper, we describe an action research approach to improve the accountability of drinking water service providers to the residents of village Sultanpur in periurban Gurgaon in North-West India. Periurban spaces are growing rapidly in spread and extent, but receive scant policy attention. They often suffer from institutional neglect and state apathy. Even then approaches to natural resource management focus on mobilising the community, for instance through user groups or such approaches as Participatory Action Planning. Little attention gets paid to reorienting the agencies of the state.

Can an approach of building a platform for dialogue between the state agencies and water users improve the accountability of the latter? A series of meetings between the agencies of the state and the water users improved trust and created mutual accountability relations between the two sides. This succeeded in making the village more water secure, even though caste and gender differentials posed important challenges in the process. This was in a context where the residents of the village shied away from organising themselves into a user group or water management committee. At the end of the process, however, the residents of Sultanpur were convinced that further improvements in distribution could come only from internal (re)organization within the community.

Can reorienting the state through action research be a more potent means of improving water security than mobilising the community?

Blog post written by Pranay Ranjan


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