Politics and Development in a Transboundary Watershed: The Case of the Lower Mekong Basin
Book chapter, 2012
This introductory chapter presents the main theme of the volume: the perceived dilemmas in pursuing IWRM in a transboundary context. The chapter discusses the IWRM approach and its package of progressive values and practices that focus on integration and participation and contrast it to transboundary politics and its tendency to remain within a state logic that emphasises sovereignty and national interests. In order to realise sustainable, efficient and inclusive water management, the chapter argues that it is essential to recognise and visualise power asymmetries and politics in regional water politics. Based on this assumption – that politics matter – the chapter contends that there is a need to explore how the perceived dichotomy between the interests of state sovereignty and (progressive) transboundary water management is played out in the Mekong River Basin. Together with its 50-year history of institutionalised cooperation and the river basin’s significance in terms of supporting local livelihoods and its contribution to the region’s national economies, the case is of paramount importance and interest. The disputed results and uncertain future in the region illustrate the complexity of achieving efficient, equitable and ecologically sustainable water management in a competitive international system. It thus makes up an excellent case study to illuminate the politics of IWRM in a transboundary setting. The different chapters of the volume, which are set to unpack, scrutinise, and illuminate the politics of the Lancang-Mekong Basin, are introduced at the end of the chapter. This section thus indicates some of the possible ways forward, challenges, dilemmas and incompatibilities in sustainable water management in the region which will be dealt with in more depth throughout the book.
Development studies - IWRM - Mekong - Transboundary water - Water governance