Advancing deliberation in a hydrosocial field: insights from participatory planning, Kamala river basin, Nepal

Dr Tira Foran1, Dr Hemant Ojha2

1CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra

2Institute for Studies and Development Worldwide (IFSD), Sydney,


We explore the interplay between participatory deliberative processes, and forces that constrain river basin planning in Nepal. Nepal’s 2015 constitution, and subsequent sectoral policies, recognize the need to improve justice for women and marginalized people. We report on ongoing efforts to facilitate participatory, cross-sectoral planning, in the multi-province Kamala river basin. We combine institutional analysis with Bourdieu’s social practice theory to chart dispositions that constrain deliberation over water resource development options. With respect to integrated river basin planning, we find that contradictions exist between norms of democratic participation, and the practices of hydrological analysis and accounting: the latter tend to dominate the field, thus far to the detriment of inclusive institutions. While attempting to facilitate participatory planning, we experienced how interlinked fields of politics and technocracy impede deliberative practice. While the establishment of local and provincial governments (pursuant to the 2015 constitution) creates new opportunities for participation in river basin planning, such opportunities are curtailed by competing priorities and pressures put on newly-elected officials. The devolution of planning to lower levels of society is constrained by nested and interlocked fields of practice. We reflect on possibilities for democratization offered by cross-scale deliberation and attention to systemic contradictions.


Tira Foran is a human geographer based at CSIRO since 2010. He has worked on participatory deliberative approaches to natural resources governance in Nepal and Myanmar.

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