Water futures: how do scattered sovereignties and infrastructure markets articulate?

Katie Vann, Virtual Knowledge Studio

This paper focuses on a dynamic at the intersection of the managerial-philosophical grounds of the water futures market and the rise of new economic superpowers. An impending water crisis has been increasingly predicted over the course of the past 30 years by water practitioners in the north, who tightly coupled its prospective amelioration to counter counter-hegemonic management logics that originated in provincial water management experiments in countries such as The Netherlands. It is arguable that such coupling was as central to and instrumental in the construction of new multi-level governance discourses as was the specter of European integration in the 1990’s. The transnational dissemination of such anti-hegemonic water management logic has manifested as its nesting in regions like western India, where plural legal orders have come to enable the manifestation of social conflicts around economic development and human rights to water resources. Many legal scholars have attempted to tease apart the ways in which the ‘scattered sovereignties’ (Randeria, 2001) associated with new multi-level governance regimes are being drawn upon and manipulated toward particular outcomes. In the domain of water resources, the conflicts around the Narmada dam have received much attention, primarily with an eye toward the ways in which local citizens and transnational social movements have strategized plural legal orders as a means of resistance tot eh dam project. This paper extends this line of inquiry; but it moves to the conflicts around ground water resources and inverts the focus from victim to transnational water infrastructure industry provider, which relies on the forging of specific agreements that provide the ground for water intensive business. The case I examine will be current conflicts around groundwater rights in the state of Maharashtra, looking specifically at the difficult relation between indigenous farmers and coca-cola pepsi-co. My aim is to tease apart how settlements are coming into being which provide the ground for the water-intensive business practices of coca-cola/pepsi-co, how the selective deployment of plural legal orders is underwriting them, and the implications this has for the prospects of industrial water infrastructure providers.