The Global Politics of Water Grabbing

J. Franco, L. Mehta, G.J.A. Veldwisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The contestation and appropriation of water is not new, but it has been highlighted by recent global debates on land grabbing. Water grabbing takes place in a field that is locally and globally plural-legal. Formal law has been fostering both land and water grabs but formal water and land management have been separated from each otheran institutional void that makes encroachment even easier. Ambiguous processes of global water and land governance have increased local-level uncertainties and complexities that powerful players can navigate, making them into mechanisms of exclusion of poor and marginalised people. As in formal land management corporate influence has grown. For less powerful players resolving ambiguities in conflicting regulatory frameworks may require tipping the balance towards the most congenial. Yet, compared with land governance, global water governance is less contested from an equity and water justice perspective, even though land is fixed, while water is fluid and part of the hydrological cycle; therefore water grabbing potentially affects greater numbers of diverse water users. Water grabbing can be a powerful entry point for the contestation needed to build counterweights to the neoliberal, corporate business-led convergence in global resource governance discourses and processes. Elaborating a human right to water in response to water grabbing is urgently needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1651-1675
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • south-africa
  • human-rights
  • land deals
  • management
  • representation
  • mozambique
  • governance


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