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Title: Water, power and IWRM (Integrated Water Resources Management) : a comparative study of village water governance in arid and semi-arid Northwest China
Author: Yu, Haiyan
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 2918
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Agriculture based livelihoods in arid and semi-arid areas encompass limited physical resources and evolving relationships between environment, population and the state. Northwest China encounters constant socio-economic changes, changing climate, agriculture and land practices and political relations that impact the social-ecological system. This thesis investigates how policy, environmental changes and local action interact with each other and affect the livelihoods and determine the environment in the Shiyang River Basin. Focusing on increasingly severe water crisis, environment degradation and endangered livelihoods that define arid and semi-arid environment, this thesis examines local people's perceptions of and interaction with their environment and water-related interventions in the Shiyang River Basin, a typical inland arid area in Northwest China. In 12-months fieldwork, mixed methods were used including semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, group discussions and participant observation. This research explicitly applying a socio-ecological system lens shows that people's perceptions of water crises can be highly divergent, regarding access to and control over local water resources and the roles of internal and external interventions. A wide range of factors result in uneven access to resources and inequitable consequences across space and even within local communities. In the Chinese contexts, personal experiences together with geographical factor, lands area and income levels have significant impacts on villagers' water perceptions. Political trust, social capital and collective action play a key role in the understanding, implementation processes and outcomes of government-enforced water reforms at local levels. This research is the first known study to use the tools of social analysis to examine water, society and the state interactions and their consequences on governance of the irrigation commons, local livelihoods and sustainability in rural China. It shows the everyday water struggle over water control, access and economic opportunities among different water stakeholders. Although a majority of population still depend on irrigated agriculture for their livelihoods, the future of agriculture in studied basin or in China generally is uncertain as farmers migrate, the population ages and next generations become better educated and migrate to the city. This thesis enables a new perspective on the global water management debate within a context where research has stresses the natural and technocratic approaches and creates new opportunities for more effective and appropriate governance of common pool resources. Interdisciplinary understanding regarding stakeholder perceptions, water resources management and environmental change are enriched. Potential barriers and solutions are transferable to other regions and countries where water crises are accelerating due to population growth, urbanization, industrialization, agriculture and economic development, climate change and other socio-political changes.
Supervisor: Edmunds, Mike ; Lora-Wainwright, Anna ; Thomas, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geography ; Asia ; Social anthropology ; water governance ; water politics ; stakeholder perceptions ; Northwest China