Accepted paper:

Navigating Institutional Constraints: How Local Cadres Deal with Water Scarcity in Yunnan

Authors:

Sabrina Habich (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Despite being known as ‘China’s water tower’, Yunnan regularly faces severe droughts. This paper deals with the question as to why, despite Beijing’s efforts during recent years to improve water conservancy, Yunnan’s water resources are becoming increasingly scarce.

Paper long abstract:

Despite being known as 'China's water tower', Yunnan frequently faces severe droughts, which puts pressure on local communities and state actors alike. This paper deals with the question as to why, despite Beijing's efforts during recent years to improve water conservancy all over the country, Yunnan's water resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Drawing on theories of the local state in China, analyses are carried out on the water management strategies in different localities in Yunnan. Findings obtained from field research in four counties with different levels of economic development and water resource endowments show that current institutional arrangements - including those regulating local cadre performance and the process of applying for project funding from higher level governments - take away power over resource governance from local cadres, thereby limiting their room to maneuver. Instead of easing the burdens placed on water scarce regions, China's new focus on water governance reinforces the existing social and economic disparities.

panel P69
Political ecology of rising China (roundtable format)