WASH Week: That’s a Wrap!

WASH Panel

King’s WASH Week convened a panel on “Ownership and Participation”, with contributions from Sam Drabble, Mariano Matoso, Amiera Sawas, and Cathy Stephen.

King’s Geography’s WASH Week, in celebration of World Water Day 2015, has come to a close after several days of panels and talks on the links between water, health, sanitation, gender, and development. King’s students and WASH practitioners joined together for a series of exciting cross-sectoral talks, with positive feedback across the board.

Louisa Gosling WaterAid

Louisa Gosling (Wateraid) talks on Vulnerability, equity and inclusiveness in WASH as part of WASH Week’s “WASH, gender and vulnerability panel”.



Reflecting on Transboundary Water Politics to Mark World Water Day 2015

King’s Water’s own Naho Mirumachi recently published a book on Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World. She reflects on the themes of the book and World Water Day below and online at the Water Diplomacy Network’s Blog. Read more at http://blog.waterdiplomacy.org/2015/03/reflecting-on-transboundary-water-politics-to-mark-world-water-day-2015/.


World Water Day reminds us of the very contemporary challenges facing many of our freshwater bodies. This year, World Water Day focuses on the link between water and sustainable development, and it offers a useful opportunity to consider in depth the politics surrounding water abstraction, allocation, access and use, particularly in developing country contexts. While there is little credibility to sensationalist views on water wars occurring between states, international transboundary river basins do shed light on some of the most contentious and intractable issues of water sharing. The Nile River basin is a good example, where the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam symbolises Ethiopia’s ambition to utilise water resources for energy production and to mark economic development. However, this may seriously affect the existing status quo of water allocations downstream: the Egyptian prime minister stated the dam project as threatening the security of its nation.

The controversy of the dam on the Blue Nile represents the complex and multiple drivers of river basin development. In any river basin, there are competing demands: water for energy and agriculture; water for growing population and rapid urbanisation; water to maintain and improve both human and ecosystem health. In my recent book, Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World, I argue that we need to consider the political economy of transboundary water resources, rather than viewing basins as objects of interstate conflict or cooperation. The key to understanding transboundary water politics is to unpack the ways in which the river basin is valued for what purposes, how institutions are established to govern allocation between states and between competing uses, who is involved in the decision-making and who is excluded. Typologies of the Nile as a conflictual basin or the Mekong River basin as a cooperative one paint over the ever-evolving deliberation and contestation of river basin development by various stakeholders at multiple spatial scales. Thus, solely looking at the number of international agreements or investigating when multilateral river basin organisations are set up may not be enough to give a bigger picture of the political economy of transboundary water resources.

Typologies of a basin as “conflictual” or “cooperative” paint over the ever-evolving deliberation and contestation of river basin development by various stakeholders at multiple spatial scales. (NASA imagery of river basin mouths. clockwise from top-left: Orange, Ganges, Mekong, Nile)

Typologies of a basin as “conflictual” or “cooperative” paint over the ever-evolving deliberation and contestation of river basin development by various stakeholders at multiple spatial scales. (NASA imagery of river basin mouths. clockwise from top-left: Orange, Ganges, Mekong, Nile)

Conflict and cooperation over transboundary water resources are not mere representations of failed or successful negotiation outcomes between states. Focusing instead on transboundary water interactions between states highlights that conflict and cooperation coexist, with their intensities changing over time. At the same time, this approach calls attention to how state agency operates in determining river basin planning and infrastructure development. The Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS (TWINS) approach that I put forth in my book highlights how and why coexisting conflict and cooperation change over time. One of the main insights from applying the TWINS approach to the Ganges, Orange-Senqu and Mekong river basins is that we need to understand how power asymmetry works, both in material and discursive ways. Power asymmetries manifest not only in infrastructure construction at the detriment of other states’ water use but also in the way problems are discursively framed: an ‘unharnessed’ river short of realising its economic potential; shared water resources as a catalyst for sustainable development or regional integration. Such problem framing is often done by elite decision-makers who favour technical, modernist, hydraulic mission-style solutions that involve costly large-scale infrastructure. Notions of ‘benefit’ and ‘development’ are narrowly defined. These problem frames have a tendency to be dominant over other rationalities or world views on the role the river and river basin play in society, constraining governance. The findings probe issues of equity, not just in terms of quantitative water allocation between states but also regarding the long-term implications on society and the natural environment from these hard-to-undo choices of river basin development. The ways in which water resources are abstracted, transferred and utilised ultimately reflect a very political and entrenched landscape of power and vested interests.


Dr. Naho Mirumachi is Lecturer in Geography at the Department of Geography, King’s College London. Her book, Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World, was published March 2015.

Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World

Coinciding with World Water Day, Dr. Naho Mirumachi‘s latest book ‘Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World’ is now available from Routledge.

The book brings together some of Naho’s insights on conflict and cooperation over shared river basins, the role of water in development and the politics and power at play in allocating and utilising water resources.  You can see more details of the book on the Routledge webpage.


A summary of the book, from the cover reads:

‘of international transboundary river basins in the developing world.
These shared rivers are the setting for irrigation, hydropower and flood
management projects as well as water transfer schemes. Often, these
projects attempt to engineer the river basin with deep political, socioeconomic
and environmental implications. The politics of transboundary
river basin management sheds light on the challenges concerning
sustainable development, water allocation and utilization between
sovereign states.

Advancing conceptual thinking beyond simplistic analyses of river
basins in conflict or cooperation, the author proposes a new analytical
framework. The Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS (TWINS) examines
the coexistence of conflict and cooperation in riparian interaction. This
framework highlights the importance of power relations between basin
states that determine negotiation processes and institutions of water
resources management. The analysis illustrates the way river basin
management is framed by powerful elite decision-makers, combined
with geopolitical factors and geographical imaginations. In addition, the
book explains how national development strategies and water resources
demands have a significant role in shaping the intensities of conflict and
cooperation at the international level.

The book draws on detailed case studies from the Ganges River basin
in South Asia, the Orange–Senqu River basin in Southern Africa and the
Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia, providing key insights on equity and
power asymmetry applicable to other basins in the developing world.’

Three King’s Water academics contribute to Routledge International Handbook of Sustainable Development

Dr Mark Mulligan, Prof Nick Clifford and Dr Naho Mirumachi from the King’s Water Team and faculty in the King’s Department of Geography have contributed to the just-published Routledge International Handbook of Sustainable Development. Mark and Nick co-authored a piece on ‘Is managing ecosystem services necessary and sufficient to ensure sustainable development?’. Naho writes about ‘Water and sustainable development’.  The Handbook includes 28 chapters in total and can be found online through Routledge: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415838429/



King’s WASH week begins!

The King’s WASH week kicked off today with a panel discussion with Prof Frances Cleaver, Dr Alex Loftus and Brendan Bromwich, chaired by Prof Tony Allan all from the Department of Geography.  Talks highlighted the role of culture and cosmologies of water, the right to water and the actual implementation of getting WASH right.  This panel set the tone for some of the ensuing discussions next week about the opportunities and challenges of water, sanitation and hygiene.

See more details with this updated latest programme: KCL WASH Week


Reflections on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Implications for Regional Cooperation on the Nile

The term is coming to a close and we are finishing off the last weeks of this winter term with a fantastic set of talks.  Prof Dale Whittington came to the Department of Geography to give us some of his reflects on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and current Nile hydropolitics.  The talk offered a unique opportunity for staff, student and external visitors to discuss very contemporary issues of dam development, regional cooperation and diplomacy.




King’s Geography invites you to participate in WASH Week 2015

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is a human right, enshrined in international law since 2010. However, there are still 748 million people in the world without access to clean, drinkable water, and 2.5 lack access to basic sanitation. Diarrheal disease – most often caused by poor WASH – is the second leading cause of deaths in children in the world. WASH is essential to human health, livelihoods, culture and dignity.

To mark World Water Day on 22nd March 2015, King’s Geography is launching a WASH Week. A range of expert speakers from NGOs and academia will be joining us to talk about different aspects of WASH – why it is not a universally enjoyed human right and what needs to be done to facilitate that goal. The causes for the gap are numerous, but one centrally recognised issue is the distribution of resource and decision-making power at various scales in WASH development and distribution programmes. The conference will also offer training sessions for those interested in obtaining new skills in WASH management.

Please see the full conference programme here. The themes of the panel are as follows:

  • WASH, infectious diseases and complex emergencies
  • WASH ownership and participation
  • WASH, the environment and climate change
  • WASH, gender and vulnerability
  • Sanitation and Hygiene post 2015

If you are interested in attending, please register here.