Putting power and politics central in Nepal’s water governance uri icon


  • Approach and Methods An in-depth case study examines the interactions of politicians and bureaucrats shaping decisions on water governance. It draws on semi-structured interviews and power mapping to reveal insights from key stakeholders with decision-making power in national management of water resources.
  • Findings Political competition drives the country's development agenda and planning, resulting in fragmented development planning. It works in tandem with the prevailing bureaucratic competition in water resources management. It highlights the need to link the discourse and analysis water governance with processes of state transformation. The current fragmented development planning processes could serve as entry points for civil society groups and the wider society to convey their voice and exert their influence.
  • Motivation Power relations, and the politics shaping and reshaping them, are key to determining influence and outcomes in water governance. But current discourse on water governance tends to present decision-making as neutral and technical, unaffected by political influences.
  • Policy implications Following federalism, the political transfer of power and decision-making to achieve political representation and social justice rests with locally elected governing bodies. This coincides with the government's push to manage water resources through river basin planning. There is a need for greater participation from the local governing bodies and understanding of how politics and power shape water governance.
  • Purpose Taking the case of Nepal, this article examines the close interlinkages between bureaucratic and political competition that indirectly influence decisions and outcomes on water governance, while placing this within the context of state transformation.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020