Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Water and Social Policy/Forests and Climate Change: The Social Dimensions of REDD in Latin America

Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Water and Social Policy/Forests and Climate Change: The Social Dimensions of REDD in Latin America

Article excerpt

Water and Social Policy Manohar Pawar Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2014 96 pages (hardback), $67.50, ISBN 978-1-137-38551-2

Forests and Climate Change: The Social Dimensions of REDD in Latin America Anthony Hall Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2012 232 pages (hardback), $99.00, ISBN 978-1-84980-286-6

Reviewed by James Midgley

Social development has been concerned with the environment for many years, but a subtle distinction continues to be made between the environment and social development. For many scholars and practitioners, social development is primarily about community-based activities that mobilize local people for livelihood activities or otherwise it involves government programs that raise standards of living. Although the importance of maintaining a sustainable environment is recognized, it is not always regarded as central to the task of promoting social welfare. However, as the two books reviewed here reveal, the goals of promoting well-being and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked. Issues of water and deforestation are the purview not merely of engineers or environmental experts, but also of social development practitioners and scholars.

The first book by Manohar Pawar makes the point that water is essential for human life and should be regarded as a basic human right. In this regard, access to water is no different from access to the other social goods and services that leading social policy scholars such as Richard Titmuss believed should be provided to all citizens through collective means. He famously drew an analogy between blood and gift giving, arguing persuasively that blood donation systems are infinitely superior to market-based distribution systems. He also believed that other social goods and services including education, medical services, housing, and income security should be based on collective principles. Following Titmuss, many social policy scholars have rejected the use of the price mechanism to meet social needs, disdained the use of means testing to determine eligibility, and challenged the imposition of user charges, contending that costs should be borne collectively through the fiscal system.

Although these ideas have been widely accepted in social policy, scant attention has been paid to water as a human right that, like blood, is essential for human life. Pawar argues that this is a gross oversight and that access to water should be a central social policy concern. To further this goal, he engages in an extensive discussion of many aspects of water policy. As he explains, there are different perspectives on how the goal of ensuring access to water can be achieved. Although most focus either on government or market-based provision, he suggests that this is a simplistic dichotomy because access to water raises a host of complex issues including the availability of water, cultural practices concerning water utilization, the role of science and technology, wider ecological concerns, and people's participation in managing the distribution of water resources. Deftly analyzing these issues, he outlines a set of principles that should govern people's access to water. These include among others universality, rights, equality, sustainability, and participation.

Taking these principles into consideration, Pawar comes out firmly in favor of collective means of provision. Arguing that water should be universally and equally available to all, he claims that it is possible and practical to provide free, safe, and sufficient drinking water to everyone. He also believes that governments should assume responsibility for achieving this goal. However, because of the complexity of water policy, different providers should be involved and steps should be taken to ensure that people themselves play an active role in water management. In particular, poor people should be fully represented in governance. Steps should also be taken ensure conservation and the sustainability of water supplies so that the right to water is preserved for future generations. …

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