Special Issue "Contested Knowledges: Water Conflicts on Large Dams and Mega- Hydraulic Development"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Hydraulics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 June 2018

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Esha Shah

Water Resources Management GroupDept. Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Interests: history and anthropology of science and technology; debates on modernity and development in India; history and genealogy of development co-operation; genetically modified crop biotechnology; role of subjectivity in shaping objectivity
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Rutgerd Boelens

Water Resources Management Group, Dept. Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
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Interests: political ecology; water rights and justice; integrated water management; legal pluralism; cultural politics, governmentality, and social mobilization; Latin America; Spain
Guest Editor
Ir. Bert Bruins

Water Resources Management GroupDept. Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Interests: land and water management; hydropower; Asia; development cooperation; capacity building; institutional development; organizational strengthening; reflective and reflexive professionalism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Water acquisition, storage, allocation, and distribution are intensely contested in our society, whether, for instance, it pertains to a conflict between upstream and downstream farmers located on a small stream, or to a large dam located on the border of two nations. Water conflicts are mostly studied as disputes around the access to water resources, or the formulation of water laws and governance rules. However, explicitly or not, water conflicts nearly always also involve disputes among different regimes of knowledge. In the history of debates on water governance, such conflicts and the attendant contestation on knowledge have most conventionally played out between water user groups and engineers or bureaucrats, for example, about a design of a canal, its location, or allocation and distribution schedules. In the current times, however, these conflicts around knowledges increasingly involve complex situations and trans-boundary actors, for example, multinational donor agencies, civil society movements, indigenous groups, environmental NGOs, and different (natural as well as social) science groups. These contested knowledges around water and water development inadvertently involve a dynamics between scientific approaches, technological choices, ecological contexts and socio-political negotiations.

In this Special Issue we invite submissions on the politics of contested knowledges as they become manifest in the conceptualization, design, development, implementation and governance of large dams and mega-hydraulic infrastructure projects. In complex mega-hydraulic structure development it increasingly becomes clear that water knowledge is not ‘neutral’ or ‘independent’ but culturally and politically laden. We witness situations where multiple knowledges and realities are constructed using different grounds for claiming the truth about water design, development and implementation. We are especially interested in addressing the following questions. Firstly, we want to understand which (dominant and non-dominant) knowledges are encountered in mega-hydraulic development, and how these different water knowledges are shaped and validated. Next is the question about legitimacy and authority of water knowledge in concrete contexts, about whose knowledge counts and whose knowledge is side-lined in particular conflict situations. Further, in the domain of large dam and water infrastructure development and contestation, how are “epistemic communities” around knowledge claims formed? Additionally, how do race, class, caste, ethnicity, and gender but also professional identity interplay and influence the formation of epistemic communities around dams and mega-hydraulics? Importantly, we also want to address the historical processes of the formation of both dominant and contested knowledges. How do various regimes/paradigms of water knowledge emerge and how they relate to each other? Lastly, we want to engage with the way contested knowledges relate to and shape norms, rules, beliefs, values about water problems and solutions; in other words, how are societal values (for instance, notions of justice, citizenship, progress, and democracy) deployed and co-produced in the contested epistemologies on large dams and hydraulic infrastructural development projects?

Dr. Esha Shah
Ir. Bert Bruins
Prof. Rutgerd Boelens
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Large dams
  • mega-hydraulic infrastructure projects
  • water conflicts
  • contested knowledges
  • epistemic communities
  • co-production of knowledge and democracy

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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