Water Politics and Spiritual Ecology : Custom, Environmental Governance and Development
This book addresses a critical need for a sustained geographical and anthropological inquiry into the social issues of water governance. It traces local uses, beliefs and rituals associated with water in East Timor and draws on detailed ethnographic research to explore the degree to which these diverse practices and beliefs influence water use and management in the complex karst environment of the Baucau district in the country’s north east. Here water has critical symbolic and material connective capacities embedding it as the critical element connecting people, spirit beings, place and space. Underground water is as well the critical organizer of local agro-resource relations which despite a century of colonial disruption exhibit and maintain both resilience and contemporary salience. Yet questions arise about what happens to this agroecosystem, indeed the entire sociocultural system, in the context of aggressive economic modernization or increasing climate variability.
The book identifies effective conceptual and methodological tools for advancing community engagement in agricultural, water resource and sanitation program implementation and provides a contextualised case study from which to draw insights and assist in achieving greater understandings and sustainability elsewhere. Informed and complemented by case studies drawn from rural and urban contexts in south-east Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia), the Andean region of South America (Peru, Ecuador, Chile) and Africa (Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa), it frames the study in a comparative context and draws out the relevance and limitations of approaches taken elsewhere. It examines the difficulties facing local communities in having their rights recognised and their efforts to maintain and assert control of their waterscapes in the face of rapidly changing water governance institutions.
Rendering visible the ritual ecological practices, contexts and scales through which use, negotiation over and sharing of water occurs at the local level, this book shows the complex functioning and social, cultural, economic and environmental interdependencies of hydrological societies. This important ethnographic study in the field of political and spiritual ecology contributes to a better understanding of the ways in which alternate practices can lead to more integrated and sustainable water management practices.