Liquid Relations: Contested Water Rights and Legal Complexity

By Dik Roth; Rutgerd Boelens et al. | Go to book overview

4
In the Shadow of Uniformity
Balinese Irrigation Management in a Public Works
Irrigation System in Luwu, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

DIK ROTH

Technocratic approaches to irrigation development and management have gradually given way to participatory but still largely instrumental approaches, with a focus on how water users should perform local irrigation management tasks and functions. Thus, joint management is often characterized by devolution of day-to-day managerial tasks and responsibilities to local water users' associations (WUAs) of the tertiary units (TUs) in irrigation systems. In the same way, water rights are often paid attention to in an instrumental manner on the basis of preconceived assumptions about the efficiency of exploitation and management under specific property regimes (F. von Benda-Beckmann et al. 1996; Spiertz 2000). The ultimate objective of such approaches is to create supposedly ideal conditions of governance, management, and exploitation through combinations of physical and sociolegal engineering. From the 1980s on, these issues were increasingly approached from an economic point of view: deregulation and cost reduction have put management turnover, cost recovery, and the introduction of market principles high on the irrigation management agenda. Fortunately, there is also a growing attention to the sociolegal aspects of irrigation (see also chapter i).1 Many studies on irrigation and water rights are now openly posing the question of how to cope with legally complex water use and management situations and the new forms of interaction and problems of governance and management emerging from them.2 Such studies often focus on farmer-managed irrigation systems and problems of rehabilitation, incorporation, and redefinition of water rights against a background of increasing pressure on water resources and competition between multiple uses and user groups. In these settings, the existence of multiple sources and definitions of rights—for instance between state law and customary law—is the rule rather than an exception.

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