If you liked yesterday’s Daily Grist story on the Sardar Sarovar dam in India, check out two books from astute observers of global dam protests and the power of emerging non-state networks of activists. Both Sanjeev Khagram (University of Washington) and Ken Conca (University of Maryland) are academics, but they write in clear, comprehensible prose for those who are willing to work a little.

Khagram, who served as a senior advisor to the innovative World Commission on Dams, utilizes the Narmada River Valley Dam Projects in central India to tell the story of the emerging strategies and impacts of transnational movements in his 2004 book Dams and Development: Transnational Struggles for Water and Power.

Khagram concludes with an insider’s account of the World Commission on Dams, a World Bank and IUCN sponsored effort that brought together dam opponents, dam builders, and everyone in between to develop progressive recommendations for balancing developmental, environmental, economic, and social costs and benefits of large dams. You can read a review (PDF) of Dams and Development by South African Anton Earle (takes a little digging — pg. 23).

In the 2005 Governing Water: Contentious Transnational Politics and Global Institution Building, Conca casts a wider eye to water governance from local to international levels while also analyzing the World Commission on Dams. Conca also finds something new in the tactics and impacts of local protests that increase their effectiveness by linking up with like-minded protesters across the world.

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Conca has detailed chapters on South Africa (where the right to water for basic needs is codified in the post-Apartheid constitution) and Brazil (where he has done extensive fieldwork). You can read a review (PDF) of Governing Water by South African Anthony Turton (more digging — pg. 17) or watch him present his book at a June 2006 Woodrow Wilson Center seminar in Washington.

For those wanting in-depth analysis of these fascinating trends of locals going global around dams and water governance generally, these two books are a must.

Full disclosure: I have collaborated often with Ken Conca — we’ve edited a couple of books together. So it shouldn’t be a surprise I am in the tank for his work.

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