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Ss20 Strengthening Environmental Justice: The Panoramic Framework Of Water Justice

World Water Congress 2015 Edinburgh Scotland
8. Water law at the national and international levels
Author(s): Sarah Wade (Edinburgh
Sarah Wade
University of East Anglia
Water Security & International Development MSc Alumna

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 8: Revisiting water paradigms,


The concept of water justice is gaining momentum alongside environmental justice movements, but lacks clear conceptualisation. Both social and environmental justice are often referred to in cases of water insecurity, but neither has been specifically adapted to incorporate the nuances of water resource management. This research examines calls for water to have its own justice framework, as current environmental justice framings lack consideration of scale and power dynamics, both of which are vital for understanding water (in)justice. The Panoramic Framework of Water Justice is developed based on this critique. Following development of the framework, it is tested through application to the case of water use around Kenya's Lake Naivasha, one of the largest exporters of cut flowers globally.

Schlosberg's framework of environmental justice is used as the starting point for this work. According to Schlosberg (2004), to create a 'just' situation there must be equity in the distribution of risk, recognition of the diversity of participants and their experiences, and the opportunity for participation in political processes for all involved. Whilst there are many strengths to this framework, this study found that the roles of scale and power were not fully considered, and both of these concepts often play a role in water insecurity challenges. As a result, scale and power are combined with Schlosberg's framework of environmental justice to develop the Panoramic Framework of Water Justice. A matrix demonstrating the Panoramic Framework is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: The Panoramic Framework of Water Justice

The concept of scale in water security issues is complex. For its incorporation into the Panoramic Framework, scale is taken to mean the jurisdictional set of levels at which the issue must be investigated, although the institutional scale may sometimes be more applicable. For example, using the jurisdictional scale, the levels may be local, national and international (Table 1). It is vital that the scale and levels are applicable to the water justice issue being investigated; therefore they must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The concept of power was also found to be influential in water justice. As a result, Lukes' three dimensions of power are included in the framework, highlighting the need to consider the role of power in creating water insecurity issues.

In order to test the Panoramic Framework, it was applied to flower farming around Lake Naivasha. The jurisdictional scale was selected, with local, national and international levels. Local represented sub-catchments, whilst national represented both the catchment level and national Government involvement to fully capture the range of water justice issues.

At the local level, equity in distribution demonstrated a core water injustice, as there is inequitable distribution of the water resource, with a focus on smallholders, fishermen and domestic users without piped water supplies. A second injustice was demonstrated as payment for water use is not well regulated, the impact of which at a local level is felt by commercial farmers, who are expected to pay the full cost of water. At a national level, this water use appears to be a 'just' water situation, as the resource is used to generate income from exports for economic, social and infrastructure-based gains. Finally, at the international level another injustice becomes clear; despite only a small proportion of Naivasha's produce being sold on international markets, commercial farms and international agribusinesses use a higher proportion of water than those selling locally. This clearly demonstrates inequitable resource distribution.

The second element of the framework is recognition which, at a local level, favours officially registered water users. However, when the national level is added the water governance structure in place attempts to resolve this issue as water users associations should represent all users. This highlights a process which is creating water injustice, as weak regulations and a lack of capacity to impose the law means that some stakeholder groups are not represented, despite the mechanisms in place which are designed to ensure their involvement.

The third element of the framework is participation. Applied to Naivasha, it is dominated by water users producing flowers for international markets, at both local and international levels, as flower growers appear to have the best representation in user groups, which facilitates their participation in decision-making processes.

The final part of the Panoramic Framework is power. In the case of Naivasha, power through the use of dominant narratives at local and international levels influences water justice issues, but consideration of this element at only one level could reinforce the dominant narrative.

A literature review of environmental justice has demonstrated the need for a water justice framework to assist with analysis of water insecurity issues and solutions. Scale and power have been shown to be necessary elements of a water justice framework. Application to the case of water use around Lake Naivasha found multiple water (in)justices which manifest at various levels. The most intriguing finding is that an injustice at one level can morph into a just situation when a different level is considered. Many consider justice to be a static singular outcome, but is demonstrated here to be a fluid process, with multiple interacting processes causing an amalgamation of just and unjust situations.

This work demonstrates the merits of using the Panoramic Framework of Water Justice to investigate cases of water insecurity, as it highlights complexities that may be otherwise overlooked by traditional framings of environmental justice. Schlosberg, D. (2004) Reconceiving environmental justice: global movements and political theories. Environmental Politics 13, 517–40.

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