Decentralisation and water resources management in the Indian Himalayas: The contribution of new institutional theories - Conservation and Society paper

The real decentralisation: a complex adaptive process with voluntary participation from all actors in the existing unequal power managing water

This paper discusses the relevance of the process of decentralisation in water resources management. The paper argues that decentralisation is not about formulating a top-down reform package to transfer power from central government to other actors to manage water resources, nor is it about emphasising the existence of the bottom up agency.

Rather, the paper draws on "New Institutionalism" and argues that decentralisation is a complex adaptive process that involves natural as well as political actions of actors and agents who draw on existing structures to negotiate and renegotiate the existing unequal power relations to manage water.

The paper argues that New Institutionalism from the social and ecological sciences offers insights for a comprehensive understanding of decentralisation of water management as a process and helps to identify the rules and resources that offer opportunities and barriers for managing water resources.

The application of New Institutionalism in the case of a village reveals that top down form of decentralised reforms though have helped actors to voice their concerns through diverse actions and empowered agents to remain adaptive, they do not ensure resource use efficiency while addressing poverty and participation of stakeholders.

Facilitating these to address the above goals will require a strengthening of statutory structures , which can lay out broad principles in policy statements to facilitate integrative, dynamic and comprehensive policy making processes. 

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