The Contested Terrain of Water Development and Human Rights

May 10, 2001

Nepalese water expert Dipak Gyawali discusses the role of the human rights movement in contesting dams and other water projects that destroy people's homes and livelihoods.


CHRISTIAN BARRY: We are very fortunate to host this meeting, co-sponsored by the Environmental Values Project and the Human Rights Initiative, two ongoing programs that we have here at the Council. We are very fortunate to have Dipak Gyawali, who has been involved in the water sector in Nepal since 1979, initially as a government engineer, and since 1987, as an independent analyst. With training in both engineering and resource economics, his research focuses on the interface between technology and society, mainly on issues of water and energy. He is the Director of the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation and is also Pragya of the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology. He has asked me to mention that he is the chair of the South Asian Regional Division of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), which brings him to New York. I was initially puzzled when asked to make this introduction because I was unfamiliar with much of the literature on water, and governance related to water, and not sure of its connection to human rights. But after reading some of Dipak's work on water, I saw many interesting parallels, one of which is that traditional human rights thinking has focused on the idea of claims against the state, either to refrain from, or to provide certain services. Failures in human rights have occurred when the Government's action was poor or inadequate. Similarly, Dipak has pointed out in his recent work, Water in Nepal (Himal Books, Kathmandu 2001), that there is a danger in embracing an institutional solipsism, focusing too narrowly on the existing differentiation of roles, with the States seen as the locus of all resources for providing goods and services. This distorts our attempts to better realize human rights. By not focusing on institutional arrangements and the broader framework of rules that give incentives to individual organizations and firms, we risk, as he puts it, choking like over-productive algae in a pond other forms of social institutional life if we view the State as the provider of first and last resort. With no further introduction, Dipak.


DIPAK GYAWALI: Thank you. I would like to begin with a story. In 1959, at the height of the Cold War, a group of U.S. Senators and power company heads visited the USSR, sponsored by the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. The visit produced a very interesting report on January 4, 1960, "Relative Water and Power Resource Development in the USSR and the USA." This is just before John Kennedy's inauguration, when the great fear was the missile race, and that the USSR had overtaken the U.S., or was about to overtake the U.S. in dam development. The group visited what is now Volvograd, then Stalingrad. They were told that 100,000 people had had to move to make way for this Stalingrad dam. To the amazement of the U.S. delegation, the chief said that "on a given day the people were told to move, and they moved." It is simpler and faster in many ways, to drive a vast power program under a totalitarian, monolithic communist system, than under an American democratic system of governance.

Since 1960, the U.S. has been on a massive learning curve, and by the time Blain Harden wrote A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia in 1996, many things had happened. Now there is even a decommissioning of several dams on the Columbia, which is regarded as one of the most successful of developments, to allow for salmon and other benefits to accrue. What we should really focus on is this disjunction, this phase gap as we say in physics, that while the U.S. is on one track, the rest of the world is only now catching up to what I call the California Paradigm.

Every government in the developing world is engaged in constructing dams. Meanwhile, environmental activists in the industrialized world are just as busy protesting against this construction. Environmentalism in much of the South has thus become a pejorative term. Take the example of the northern Indian State of Bihar. Since India's independence from Britain 50 years ago, there has been a massive program of constructing embankments or side dams for flood protection. When you build an embankment along a river to control floods, what is forgotten in our tropical and semi-tropical parts of the world is that once the flood subsides, the collected water drains back into the river. Embankments prevent the river from spilling over, but not from seeping over and draining back. As a result, there are villages in Bihar—which is a very fertile part of India, with some 7,000 feet of rich alluvium—where they used to get three crops a year with no fertilizer needed. Now, they get one crop, if the monsoon fails. Because for nine months of the year, there's too much water. For instance, the number of people affected by this embankment, and the amount of land that has gone out of production is several orders of magnitude more than the most celebrated case that you hear about. Some villages are left with only the elderly and children after the able bodied have migrated to urban areas to work in factories because they cannot sustain themselves in this most fertile part of the country.

The other example I would like to bring is the well-known case of the Arun III hydroelectric project in Nepal, a small project by any other standard, but quite a large undertaking for Nepal. Arun III, a 200-megawatt project, was promoted by the World Bank with gusto for ten years at a cost of US$20 million for studies alone, which were ultimately so poorly constructed that they did not stand up to scrutiny by activists. The World Bank had to pull out in 1995, after ten years of spending US$20 million, and preventing every other project from being studied.

This is not really about environmental activism, even though there were environmental organizations involved in this kind of work. It was purely bad economics by the World Bank, and there were no major demonstrations, no street fights, unlike most other major dam projects that you hear about all over the world. It took only two years of intellectual activism to get the World Bank to collapse and withdraw. To give you an idea of the economic issue that was involved: A dam of that size in the Himalayas generally takes about US$1,000-$1,500/kilowatt to construct, whereas this was being estimated at US$5,000/kilowatt. The Bank made a single strategic mistake in never expecting a challenge from Nepal on intellectual grounds. Several of us dissected pixel by pixel their computer program that does the optimization study called WASP, and reconstructed it to show that all of their assumptions were false. There were also six alternative smaller projects, which are now nearing completion after the World Bank pulled out, and producing a third more electricity at half the cost in half of the time. You don't have to be an economic wizard to figure out which is better. This is why the World Bank had to withdraw after just two years of activism once multi-party democracy was restored in Nepal in 1990.

The Bangladesh Flood Action Plan is a second case, similar to Bihar, except that in Bihar there is no real protest emerging. In the Bangladesh case, there was a strong movement against the Flood Action Plan, a massive engineering project to dike all of the country's rivers. Both the Ganges and the Brahmaputra join there, and burst into thousands of streams, which annually flood and are meant to flood. But if you embank all of these, not only will you prevent water from draining back, you also allow silt to accumulate within the embankment. These rivers come from the Himalayas, where there is the highest rate of erosion, not because farmers are cutting trees, but because of geotectonic processes. The Himalayas on the average are rising and eroding at a rate of approximately one millimeter per year, like building a sand mound on a beach, the higher you build, the more keeps falling off. Strong activism halted the project. I told my Bangladeshi friends, "you really want to see what would have happened in Bangladesh if the Flood Action Plan had gone ahead? Just go to Bihar and take a look at how it has destroyed the politics, the social fabric, everything."

What I would like to draw from these examples is the selective amnesia that seems to operate at this larger social level. What is the filtering out of information, at what time, who does the filtering, and if there is a filter that chokes out certain types of information, who brings it back in? There is also selective science going on. I'll give you one more example.

In 1993 in Nepal, we had one of the most massive cloud bursts, an inadequately studied phenomenon in climatology. During a period of three days, there were 540 millimeters of rain in 24 hours, or more precisely nine hours. When you have half a meter —a foot and a half of rain—in nine hours, there is really nothing you can do except to make sure that it drains away as fast as possible. Nothing was saved, trees in the slopes all came down together in one massive Armageddon. The Kulekhani Reservoir in Nepal is so low now that we are going through eight hours of load shedding every day because the water has dried up. We had no rain for seven months last winter, and a similar winter the year before. In this one dam, there was a dead water level, that is the point at which all the dirt and silt accumulate to the level of the tunnel which carries off the water. The dam cannot be operated. The calculation was that it would take 100 years for this silt to reach dead water level—ten million cubic meters of space. Five million cubic meters, half, came in this one cloud burst. Almost half had already been destroyed previously, and half was destroyed in this single event. This study was done by Japanese consultants followed by World Bank review missions, all of whom agreed that it would take at least 100 years. What happened? Selective filtering out of information. As the same river debouches into the plains of India, there is a barrage for irrigation which was designed for a 8,000 maximum cubic meter per second flood level. There was one statistical outlier in this whole list, which showed that there was probably a 12,000 cubic meter per second flood. If you take the larger number, your design of gates and flood structures are bigger, and thus more expensive. The World Bank has only so much money, so why complicate things. The 12,000 cubic meter per second flood was rejected as an outlier, and it was designed for 8,000, which operated fine until this 1993 event. Several people lost their lives, villages were washed out, it was an unbelievable disaster as the barrage came barreling down after the cloud burst in the northern hills. There were three enormous tree trunks stuck on the gantries, which means the river had gone right to the top. Not only was this 8,000 cubic meter per second figure inaccurate, but the 12,000 figure would have also been wrong, because the actual flood was 15,000. Again, why this selective filtering out of information?

What has happened here is that in most developing countries, through no fault of the governments, but because in the structures of development that we have put in place—including the Breton Woods institution like the World Bank—state and its bureaucracy are the vehicles of development. There is also the area of critical civil society—the so-called "NGO movement." And the state moves into that area and does the social civil society work also. And the real civil society and real market get driven underground, thus leaving an uncontested terrain in which the state and its allies function. Most water resource development takes place in this uncontested terrain, which is uncontested only up to a point, because after a while, these underground markets—the real markets—come back like a jack-in-the-box.

In terms of water science, the Government takes on regulatory but not market science, which has an innovative bent. This is where the issue of human rights comes in. Take the case of Nepal. Before 1990, we had our absolute monarchy and in April 1990 a multi-party parliamentary system or "democracy" was restored. Before 1990, we had an uncontested terrain, and human rights activism at this point was seen as restoring our political rights to organize, vote, and fight elections on different grounds. So human rights were synonymous with political rights. And all other issues, including the issues of bad power development or energy development, were seen as human rights issues because we had no political rights. But after 1990, most of these human rights organizations faded away or died, simply because "now that we have democracy," everything will be taken care of. What was forgotten was the first law of democracy, that elected representatives do not listen to reason. They are only able to feel the heat, which committed activism alone can deliver. Thus, when you have no activism, there is no heat, which means that politicians will not behave the way you think they should. So the issue has become, now that we have democracy, how do you return to the contestation that has been lost because of apathy? Most of this contestation from voluntary science comes only when a sense of danger is triggered. Human rights is the only discourse that allows space for contestation, whether for a nascent market driven underground, or a nascent underground civil society. Human rights language emerges from an understanding of the charter of human rights of the United Nations. But there is only a vague understanding even among the elites who use this word, let alone the villagers.

Human rights, then, gets translated into a fight for rights that is modulated and modified to a particular context—whether it be the right to land, to water, to not be evicted from ancestral property. If you use the human rights angle, suddenly you can internationalize the issue, and put pressure on government, because there are all kinds of groups listening and saying, "Oh wow, we'll do something about it." This is how human rights is now re-entering the public contestation through groups who see choices of technology that are not contested. Is it only intellectuals who use these kinds of terms? Consider the situation, in much of the developing world: outside the capital city, you will probably find a literacy rate in the range of 30 percent, and even those who are literate probably have no access to reading material. In such a case, human rights would have to be, by the elites for the poor, or what they perceive as representing the marginalized or the poor. For instance, lack of development is seen by either the market or the State as lack of human rights. If people are poor, what do they expect? So we have to develop, and most big dam projects are justified on that ground. Anybody questioning development is therefore anti-development, and likewise anti-people. This will make human rights movements much more difficult in the coming decades. It cannot be a simple political rights issue, or a fight for resettlement or proper compensation. But in most cases of technological choice, resettlement and compensation are mitigatory and compensatory measures. Once you accept mitigation, you have already accepted the main decision. So most successful activists would reject that outright and begin from questioning the very basis of the choice, and not so much the mitigating measures of how the procedures can ensure adequate compensation. If human rights issue were seen against an individual or particular group's rights versus the State, it gets much more clumsy. And sometimes, this yearning for neat and rigid structures allows the State to establish a program, which for lack of a better word I would call fascistic. We need order, we cannot have all this mess going around. Therefore, we need a strong Joseph Stalin in each village.

Human rights and water development issues may be redefined as not just versus the state, but also against an uncontrolled market, because this is the next battle with globalization. In most cases, the state has already relinquished its primary role of development—it's become a handmaiden to the market. And the movement of the market can be so ruthless, that it is bound to react with groups, and communities may have other ideas. Unfortunately, much of the reaction will come after the decisions have been taken. How to do this a priori is going to be a major challenge for groups, because how do you fight something that is just a mirage? Groups working on human rights related to bad water development must make sure that there is enough contestation of a plural nature going on at the same time—some will have to operate at the elite level, others at the local level to sensitize villagers.

Another example: The Mahakali Treaty, a border river agreement between Nepal and India, which was signed after three days of negotiations in January 1996, and ratified by the Nepali Parliament by a two-thirds majority in September 1996, provided for the completion of the project design within six months. It has been six years, and they haven't moved an inch. How do you build the world's largest dam in the Himalayas where there is an absolute land shortage? India is heavily populated as is Nepal, and our arable lands are all in the valley bottoms, just as on the Indian side of the border in the new state called Uttaranchal. Indian activists, who are much better organized and have a longer history than their Nepali counterparts, have unilaterally opened high schools all over the basin floor. It will be much more difficult to approve now, and this dam will probably never be built because you would have to compensate not only the individual village, but also the community for the loss of their school.

Rights, and human rights in particular, are defined to suit the context. In the North, many human rights issues may be related to multinational companies and businesses operating in such a way to transfer some of their external costs onto the environment. In much of the South, it is still the Government that does business. Kyoto, for example had lots of problems, simply because southern and northern NGOs could not see eye to eye. One was contesting the State, the other was contesting the market. In one case the State was almost an ally, as in the European Union, and Scandinavia in particular, whereas in much of the South, the State is the enemy, because there is no market, or only an underground market.

The core issue in the South is that for the past 50 years, since the end of the Second World War—the Age of Foreign Aid, as I call it—we having been trying to promote development without market or capitalism. We still do not have the instruments of capitalism in place, which Europe has taken 500 years to implement. On the other hand, we have loaded onto the State—a State that was poor at regulation to start with—the functions of both the market and civil society. It has possibly already become the straw that has broken many a State's back in the South, where they are incapable of doing all three of these things: neither regulation, nor market, nor cautionary civil society. Our hope is that the use of human rights as an international discourse will be able to redress the balance so that the protest against technological choices can be done early on, and we avoid the solipsism of banking everything on one institutional structure. Thank you.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: How effective have contestation and civil society been in the South?

DIPAK GYAWALI: Unless they have one single target, it is very difficult for individuals or organizations, or even the bureaucracy, to accomplish their goals. For instance, bureaucrats will become confused if asked to accomplish two seemingly conflicting objectives at the same time, such as maximizing social benefits and minimizing the State. The lack of a primary objective led to the failure of the Water Resources Planning Act of 1965, eventually repealed by President Reagan 15 years later. The academic exercise was wonderful, but none of the departments could implement it because there were too many conflicting objectives.

NGO (non-governmental organization) is a very common term in the developing world, but a broader definition is needed. There are business-organized NGOs (BONGOs), which operate as businesses and are not regarded as activist. Banks are now funding through NGOs, and every contractor is registered and operating as an NGO. Similarly, there are aid- and donor-organized NGOs (DONGOs), in addition to Government organized NGOs (GONGOs). The real civil society is therefore limited to NGOs not associated with the State or the market. If there are a sufficient number of these NGOs, in the end, the clumsy and messy institutions, or institutional arrangements, will be much more stable. Short, neat, rigid solutions like the former Soviet Union can collapse and break. Governments use the stability argument to justify rigid systems as opposed to the clumsy, messy arrangements associated with democracies.

Each group pursuing its brand of activism needs to find its own tools, and there are enough tools around. As for multinational companies, we should understand that globalization stretches back into our history beyond economic integration. For instance, the United Nations was an attempt at globalizing bureaucratic solidarity. You have the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, which is one example of organization around globalization.

There are groups of activists, as in Rio at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, which come together and have a common position. The Internet is one of the most useful tools for activists, by allowing communication across Government-set barriers. Interestingly, when you look at most Southern activists these days, as those in India and Pakistan testify, they get along perfectly with each other, unlike their respective governments. In addition, while they cooperate with each other across borders, they have difficulty cooperating with their respective governments. Subsequently, the whole global framework of identifying with the nation state, as the United Nations has bequeathed upon us, and the idea of "international", becomes problematic. Somehow we need to go beyond that, into a discourse of international collaboration that transcends the nation-centric containers not only at the activist level, but at a larger level.

QUESTION: How are women contributing to local development initiatives?

DIPAK GYAWALI: I used to chair one of the largest poverty alleviation NGOs in Nepal in a voluntary capacity, and one of my most fulfilling experiences was working on programs aimed at empowering women. In Northern Ghurka, a remote part of Nepal, we were helping women to generate income by motivating them to form groups and produce items for market in their free time. What we discovered was that, as in many areas of Nepal, it takes about three hours a day to carry the water they use in the dry season. So if you have to get up at two in the morning to carry water, where is your free time? I was against any kind of engineering work in this NGO, but other people insisted that these women had to get water. I agreed on certain conditions, mainly that the women would control and manage any arrangement we set up, and we organized a Women's Water Users Group, and replicated it elsewhere.

Interestingly enough, almost everywhere we attempted to form a new group, they would refuse to call themselves a Women's Water Users Group, because it would alienate the men. So even though only women were using water and most of the men were gone hunting for half the year, they rejected a women's group. However, in every scheme where women themselves organized and managed the process, rather than having something built for them, the cost was about 30-50% less than Government-developed schemes.

The groups also proved efficient in completing strenuous maintenance tasks. Once Government schemes are completed, the minister comes and inaugurates them, after which they are forgotten. A person had to walk for about an hour and a half up a hill to the extraction site to ensure that all the pipes are in place and undamaged by animals. By distributing duties to every household, the local groups have devised their own unique system to oversee the scheme that works perfectly. They use a marble system, in which a blue-colored marble is put into the intake, and there is a red marble that brings it back and brings it to the next person, telling a third person that he would get a certain color marble from someone else.

QUESTION: How has human rights discourse been advantageous to contestation?

DIPAK GYAWALI: The last ten years in Nepal have been amazing; we call it "democracy on fast-forward." In the last decade alone, we have accomplished more under this constitutional monarchy than the British did in the last 700 years. Before 1990, we had primarily party-based politics, where people associated themselves with the underground Congress Party, Communist Party, or similar parties. This is no longer the case. Now that we have political rights, all the activists have joined parties and lost their credibility completely. Therefore, there is a need for activists who are involved in "issue-based" politics and not necessarily affiliated with a political party, as was the case previously.

A success story of "issue-based" activism was getting rid of smoke belching three-wheelers in Kathmandu that increased air pollution and caused asthma. These have now been replaced by battery and natural gas operated three-wheelers. Activists argued for the right to good health, which was threatened by air pollution that caused some children to become asthmatic in their third year. Although there are other problems with Kathmandu's air, especially caused by big factories, you can now feel the difference, especially in the winter. This kind of activism can open the space. Otherwise, one is either a member of the Communist Party or a Congress intellectual or a Royalist, and any attempts at initiating programs are paralyzed. So the issue is how to achieve this alternate framing of the discourse to get alternate space.

QUESTION: What is the effect of population growth on poverty and water resources?

DIPAK GYAWALI: A Southern perspective on the population issue is slightly different from that of the North. Through poverty programs that I have worked with, it seems as that a large family is the only insurance poor people have. I did a calculation once in a Himalayan roadless village with a farmer who had just about enough land to feed his family for maybe seven months a year. The remaining five months he would be forced to find a seasonal job. In that kind of marginal scenario, a family of fewer then 12.2 persons is just not viable. Carrying water and caring for cattle are full-time jobs. Domestic household chores, including caring for children are a full-time job. Farming is an overtime job. Still someone else must trade to ensure cash income required to buy basic necessities such as clothes. With an average life expectancy of 46 years, and fairly high child mortality rates, unless you have six or seven children, your hope of having at least one them survive until your own old age, if you are fortunate to live long yourself, is next to zero. There is no pension scheme or social security system, and having supporting children is the only social security available. As a result, population programs have been inadequate in addressing this issue, because they have only focused on family planning techniques, and largely neglected the poverty issue.

The major discourse of water supply in Kathmandu, which is not so much a supply problem as a distribution problem, is an interesting case to illustrate. People stand in line for water for three hours during the dry season. Pictures in the Kathmandu Post show people queuing all night, waiting for a tap to open up to get a jar of water. While villagers need to climb a hill for three hours, people in the city can stand in line and chat with their friends. This social benefit has caused migration from villages to the city. If you reduce the city's water availability time from three hours to two hours, the migration would increase. I am not denying that there is a population problem, but it has to be informed from these other quadrangles. We must be aware of possible unforeseen consequences of actions taken in the name of development.

The idea of population control is a hierarchical solidarity; in other words a reliance on a top-down approach to environmentalism. Occasionally, the market will encourage a different development. When President Nixon first went to China, euphoria reigned in the U.S. that China represented "a billion consumers." The market gets excited as the population grows, and thus there is no market incentive to prevent population growth. On the egalitarian side, which is where the human rights issue comes from, it gets much more complicated. Advocating population control needs to be supplemented by a discussion of insurance schemes and health care for poor people, to ensure that children survive. This is how water issues interact with human rights and population control questions. Voluntary science must be given adequate space to address these issues and ask these other kinds of questions.

A third of Nepal is now under Maoist control because elected politicians built houses for themselves and sent their children to fancy schools rather than serving the people. The situation has become so bad that the elected representatives are reluctant to return to their constituencies because the Maoists are in control there. The situation at the grassroots level has spurred many questions, including what decentralization means. Devolution of power to more local bodies is a big agenda, which the restoration of democracy in 1990 failed to achieve. Egalitarian forces, previously driven underground, are not coming out of the woodwork. Because the democratic Government would not devolve power to the local level, you now have a local state under Maoist control. An enlightened polity would not see critical civil society as a threat, but rather as an important critical voice. But the inability to provide space to civil society results in the trolls and goblins coming out of the woodwork.

In the poverty alleviation work that I was involved in, many of the villages were terribly marginalized and in absolute poverty with perhaps one person who was close to literate, but barely recognized letters. We would have a "motivator" live in the village for at least six months before forming an income-generating group. The group members themselves were responsible for deriving strategies, and the motivator's role was to evaluate them and inform them of potential difficulties. The ideas they came up with to improve their well-being were stunning, and each village had different scenarios.

In one place I recall, a very poor area, they wanted to grow a saffron-like plant, a very expensive, fragrant spice. Previous generations in the village had grown the spice, but it had degraded along the way. They did not have the flower that produces the spice, and had to send off to Kashmir to get it. Apparently, they currently have a thriving business. This sort of initiative would never come out of a consultancy to the World Bank, or from me, or anybody else, but has to come from the villages themselves.

QUESTION: How does contestation differ on the local and national levels?

DIPAK GYAWALI: When national or international policies affect the local level, certain things cannot be addressed at the national, or even district level. Different styles of operation at different scales are needed, and as you go up and down the scales, your styles have to change. It is perhaps not so much about promoting activism, but rather promoting the market. For instance, the people who work in development are almost genetically trained to reject the middleman. Such people are perceived as profit-seeking swine that should not be allowed anywhere near the village. We were working with an income-generating group that was growing fruits in one area in mid-west Nepal. We asked them if they had encountered any problems, to which they replied: "the problem is we have no middleman." When we asked why they wanted to bring these "leeches" in, they replied that they were farmers and had no time to market the fruits. A farmer subsequently outlined the process. If he took a load of mangos to the bazaar, he would be cheated at every step. It would therefore save a lot of time to sell the entire load at once through a middleman to assess the price, pay for it, and ensure a better return. We then brought back several middlemen and mediated a fair arrangement. The farmer was actually talking about a "futures market," despite being illiterate and having no Harvard M.B.A. And the futures market has worked perfectly in an area so remote, you would never think it would work.

Sometimes at the local level, a monoculture may exist because the villagers have been so fatalized by an extreme landlord or clan leader. As an example, I visited two villages on opposite sides of a small stream. One village had three ethnicities, one of which is regarded as an "untouchable" group in Nepal, and there was constant fighting, making it difficult to implement projects. But whatever they did agree on would definitely be much more stable. On the other side, there was a homogenous village, which we thought would be easier. However, it had one big man who made all the decisions, and the local youth who wanted to challenge him had to rely on a Government agency or an NGO to fight their fight on their behalf.

This clumsiness on the local level is quite varied, and depends on the degree to which the local community is pluralized. In some cases, the sense of fatalism is very high within the village population. But even in the monoculture villages that are clan-based or have similar political arrangements, their cost-benefit calculations are quite well done. One cousin may be part of the Communist Party, another in the Congress Party, and yet another is a Royalist. As a result, no matter who comes to power, they have established political connections. In the process, suddenly the demands of the parties influence their decisions, and they become contested. But in general, the more you open up the plurality, and the clumsiness that follows, the greater the chance that at least something will work. If it is not clumsy, something may work brilliantly for a while, but then collapse.

The democratic process on which Nepal has embarked, as messy and complicated as it is, has been more effective at the local level where there is contestation and a search for a median way from the start, before initiatives get entrenched. We should continue the devolution of power to these local bodies and see where it goes from there. They may favor a regulation of some type, but let it be a demand-driven rather than imposed regulation.

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