The Warna River is a 150 km long tributary of the Krishna river in peninsular India. The minor ethnic and traditional communities share cultural, spiritual, social, and economic relationships with the natural resources shaped by the river. These communities were displaced twice, first for the establishment of the Chandoli National Park (biodiversity) and second for the Warna dam to provide water to the flourishing agriculture and sugarcane industrial belt located in the middle and lower reaches. The displaced communities (about 32 villages) were not fairly compensated by the state and many people had to migrate to cities and downstream locations for better livelihood options. Some of them joined the locally established social movement, Krantiveer Babuji Patankar Lok Shastriya va Prabhodhan Sanstha (KBPLSP) to gain fair compensatory rights. Through the local social movement, the displaced persons received land for subsistence farming, and they were also able to form water user associations in the area. The lower part of the basin is a progressive agriculture and sugarcane industrial belt, where most of the displaced communities have migrated and work as agriculture laborers. In the Warna basin, the tentacles of neoliberal modes of governance have replaced the traditional knowledge and changed the intricate relationship of the communities with the riverscapes, challenging their identities. The ethnic communities in the upper part of the Warna basin shared cultural and spiritual relationships with the forests and the rivers which were reflected in their daily practices to conserve them as commons. This research looks into the historical development in the basin and explores the different power and political regimes which have shaped the current river governing practices.

PhD researcher: Sarita Bhagat

Humans and the more-than/non-human entities like the river, materials, and multi-variant species constantly interact creating and maintaining multiple realities. Framing rivers within the relational dynamics construct new meanings, values, norms, and knowledges in the physical, social, institutional, cultural, and political spaces which define ‘hydrosocial territories’. Powerful and dominant actors, often transcending national jurisdictions, create social norms and local rules, which to a varying degree lead to marginalization and loss of voice of other groups of actors, with less power, including the non-human entity. In this process of epistemic violence and silencing, important knowledges, meanings and information can be lost which are important to manage and govern rivers. This research will unravel these emergent relational dynamics in the context of the Warna watershed in India, to make space for other epistemologies animated by social justice, dynamics around social movements and river imaginaries to create and co-govern the Warna river commons, safeguarding rights of nature that go beyond the current legal frameworks in India. The overall research focuses on concepts emerging from political ecology, mainly focusing on notions of power relations and governmentality and actor-network theory. A qualitative research approach will be applied, with empirical and experiential field evidence to support my research, which includes creative and transformative learning methods to collect data.