Environmental sustainability and legal plurality in irrigation: the Balinese subak

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This paper reviews the literature on subak irrigators’ institutions on the Indonesian island of Bali, with special reference to legal plurality and environmental sustainability. The subak is well known in irrigation studies as a strong and effective institution. Therefore it is relevant to investigate it under conditions of change. The growth of tourism and other developments have put Balinese irrigated agriculture under severe environmental pressures. In this paper I argue that, in response to these pressures, new forms of governing irrigated landscapes, notions of social-environmental harmony and sustainability, and ways of shaping farmer behaviour are emerging. These changes entail new forms of legal plurality, both localizing and globalizing, and new framings of ‘tradition’ and ‘local knowledge’ in relation to social-environmental problems. Finally, they involve contestations between normative and legal repertoires and discourses that transcend ‘water governance’ and cannot be reduced to ‘systemic’ typologies of legal plurality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Issue numberSp. issue
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • indonesia
  • law
  • perspectives
  • communities
  • management
  • reform
  • adat

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