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Water, Traditional Cultures and a Degrowth Future

Rajni Bakshi

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Scientific paper

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Degrowth Conference Budapest 2016


Water, Traditional Cultures and a Degrowth Future: the quest for a steady-state economy

By Rajni Bakshi

Degrowth as a concept does not sit well in most societies today. But water is a key to fostering new imaginaries and new visions that will be not merely acceptable but inviting. By 2040 an estimated 33 countries, including USA, China and India, will face severe water scarcity.

India has a rich heritage of elaborate traditional technologies and modes of social organization that ensured adequate and reliable supply of water even in arid regions. Many of these old community-based systems of watershed management and storage, withered away as water was transformed from a sacred gift to just a ‘resource’ that could be privatized.

Today while local water-shed management is supported by government policy this tends to be overwhelmed by large projects that add directly to GDP growth.

Nevertheless, over the last quarter century, a wide variety of activist and academic interventions in India have attempted to revive, or at least document, the multi-dimensional wisdom on which pre-modern societies based their relationship to water.

This paper will explore what promise this work holds in:

• Building upon surviving community-based water traditions to show a steady-state economy in action;

• Critically examining if these grassroots practises can indeed form the basis of a transition to a degrowth political economy in India and other countries;

• Inspiring people who rejected the steady-state approach and made reckless use of water resources to re-think and change course;

• Exploring entirely new forms of water commons that could be the basis of a re-growth future.

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This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Water, Traditional Cultures and a Degrowth Future“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

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