Large scale water-management infrastructure in Central and South Asia - to what extent have policies been based on flawed or incomplete economic analy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Geography


To address today's freshwater challenge, governments are investing in large-scale infrastructure projects. Historically this has resulted in environmental
issues. In the 1960s the Aral Sea was drained for irrigation, undermining public health, the fishing industry and the environment. In the Western
Himalayas of India, Nepal and Bhutan, investments have sometimes been made in piped rather than traditional spring-fed systems, with potentially
negative environmental consequences. In both cases plans to divert water was based on economic analyses. In the first case, a cost-benefit analysis
was undermined by omitting economic impacts on the environment. In the second case, cost-effectiveness was assessed, but often for just one
engineering option. Understanding the environmental economics behind water-management decisions taken under a spectrum of political regimes
(authoritarian/democratic) will be critical to constructive engagement with governments on environmental issues. Subsequent insights from econometric
analysis and data collection on past projects can inform current plans, e.g. India's plan to divert the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. I will research the
extent to which large-scale water management plans in Central and South Asia has been based on flawed economic analyses and if excluding
environmental concerns has led to unexpected economic losses. I will also address how to best engage decision-makers in different political regimes
(authoritarian and democratic).


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Goodman L (2019) Book review: Water, Technology and the Nation-State in Urban Studies