The third webinar of the series discussed the topic of ‘Making groundwater governance inclusive: embedding key narratives’, laying emphasis on understanding how the aspects of equity, fairness, and justice can be integrated into the thinking on groundwater governance (gwG)? The most common factor was that of inclusiveness in gwG, with specific emphasis on the often-overlooked aspect of intersectionality. Caste, gender, and patriarchy are still not a part of the current water governance paradigm and while there is a need to address the macro issues here, there’s a much bigger need to work on the micro realities that aggravate these macro issues. Therefore, for gwG to be inclusive, we must let go of the command-and-control attitude and embrace an approach of caring and sharing. Another interesting insight was to adopt the water-energy-food nexus as a groundwater governance tool and use the groundwater development history as an energy transition tool in India. There was also an emphasis on moving from ‘engineering to ingenuity’, while talking about groundwater and ecosystem governance. The issue of climate change and its impacts was much discussed where it was stated that gwG is critical for climate-resilient agriculture in the future. Equity and climate justice must form the critical components of the climate change discourse.
While bringing in the dimension of conflicts in the discourse of gwG, it was pointed out that competition and conflicts concerning groundwater remain under-explored and under-valued areas. A plea to democratise our water governance ‘nothing about us, without us’ for the inclusion in groundwater governance was brought to the fore, stressing the fact that diversity brings new questions to the table and enables the reproduction of knowledge. Along with that, it was pointed out that the current discourse around gwG is laden with ideas of developmental governance rather than addressing the pertinent issue of larger environmental governance.
Further, while discussing solar energy as a tool for gwG it was pointed out that this approach could lead to dual equity issues where it has the potential to either bring in or disintegrate equity, given the interplay of a complex regime defined by groundwater, energy, and agriculture. It is important to note that amongst the discussions around inclusion in gwG paradigm, contexts are often excluded from the mainstream, e.g. springs and spring-water management remained an area that was hardly discussed during the three days, especially during the 3rd webinar. So, exclusion of certain topics like spring-water further highlights aspects such as intersectionality and inclusion.