Geographers and politicians argue over definitions of development, over maps of where it has occurred, is occurring and will occur and over rates of development. Perhaps the most commendable classification to emerge in recent years separates off the least developed countries (LDCs). However, virtually all definitions imply some form of ‘cultural colonialism’ by implying that development is a process and pattern laid down immutably by the ‘First World’ (Bissio, 1988). The trade system directed by world capitalism confirms an international homogeneity; in the field of water projects the hegemonies of finance and technology transfer are also forces.
To anyone based in the UK, a small nation on an island, developed for habitation over thousands of years, the two most startling aspects of river basin development are the size of the river basins tackled by both ancient and modern management schemes (consider those shown on Figure 4.1) and the rapidity with which technology transfer is now leading to convergence of schemes. Two important new questions then emerge: Are large schemes good schemes? Does convergent technology negate local variation in environment? These cannot be answered until the end of Chapter 5.
An even more basic question arises as to the precise role of water development in the development process as a whole. As Cox (1988) puts it, ‘much of the history of civilization involves a continuing effort to enhance the positive aspects of the water resource and to control the negative aspects’ (p. 91).
However, Cox goes on to reveal that empirical studies find it difficult to link water development to the location and intensity of private economic activity—water has not been a high priority in industrial or urban location in the developed world (see also Rees, 1969). In the developing world, however, the predominating agricultural or primary industrial economy is much more likely to be boosted by deliberate investment in water. The history of water development in the USA demonstrates that a continuation of government support for ‘cheap water’ after the initial agricultural period leads inevitably to