• Richard

Hydraulic City – Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai


Esteemed colleague, Nitin Jain in Freetown, recommended me to read Nikhil Anand’s fascinating 2017 book (from his PhD thesis I assume) on water supply in Mumbai.

Amidst what I would call the 'sociological ?????? (can't decide on the precise word I might be tempted to use, I am an engineer at heart after all!) I really appreciated his stories about the Junior Engineers and the chaviwallahs (valve turners) and the local politicians and local NGOs etc and the extent to which people can make a 'just enough' system work for them and then how resistant to change they all have to be - as upsetting the delicate balance can so easily bring more harm than good.

He describes well some World Bank attempts to ‘make a difference’ and it is interesting to note that since his fieldwork Suez had been brought back into the city for yet another attempt to bring it all into the 20th century (not getting too far ahead of ourselves! Only looking for 'good enough' water service). However, we understand that Suez has already departed/been pushed out by yet another generation of resistant stakeholders (perhaps actually the same folk?!).

I wonder if the Veolia Karnataka 24/7 project got away with it by delivering all new pipework and a dramatically improved service for everyone so quickly that they were delivering clean water to all before anyone had a chance to resist .... ? That is before those who benefited at some level from the existing situation had a chance to mobilise their political clients.

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