Accepted paper:

Farmer Adaptations to Groundwater Degradation in Pakistan's Punjab: Internalising Water Injustice?


Fazilda Nabeel (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the breadth of informal coping mechanisms for groundwater degradation that have evolved in the absence of formal groundwater governance in Pakistan's Punjab; the power structures underlying these, and their contradicting potential to marginalise and support simultaneously.

Paper long abstract:

The paper examines the ways in which local communities adapt to the deterioration in quantity and quality of available groundwater resources through a case study of farmers in the rice-wheat belt in District Sheikhupura of Punjab, Pakistan. In doing so, it highlights the power relations that structure the nature of informal groundwater markets mediating differential access to groundwater for irrigation, as well as customary practices building on 'local' knowledge to cope with growing industrial contamination of ground water resources. It finds that in the absence of formal government oversight for groundwater sustainability, the groundwater 'conservation' agenda has come to be intervened by the "corporateness" of corporate social responsibility initiatives run by water-intensive multinational companies sourcing rice (and embedded water) for export from the study area. The paper posits that the breadth of 'governance' initiatives and responses from a range of actors have served to reinforce the skewed distribution of water and water-saving technology (and knowledge) against marginalised groups; and that these 'water injustices'are routinized, accepted and reproduced by those who suffer from them. The case study highlights that the natures and textures of informality of the groundwater economy of Punjab - and its contradicting potential to marginalise and accommodate at the same time - need to be taken into account to condition discussions of future governance strategies for groundwater.

panel B03
Examining inequalities in contexts of environmental degradation (Paper)