In the area of water governance, there has been little systematic comparison between China and India. The intended contributions of this special issue are threefold. A comparative study of water governance between China and India not only provides opportunities for the two countries to draw lessons from each other, but also sheds light on similar challenges in water resources management in other developing countries. In addition, both China and India are key riparian countries in some of Asia's most important international river basins, and their approaches to water conflicts in these rivers have significant impacts not only on water security but also on regional stability. Finally, comparative water governance is a new and undeveloped field of study. This special volume introduces a Modified Institutional Analysis and Development Framework as a tool to facilitate more systematic, theoretical, and comparative approaches to water governance in the context of comparative study of China and India. It does so by specifying various dimensions of the institutional context and how they could explain variations in the performance of the water sector. The aim is to help advance the current theoretical and applied discourse on comparative water governance as a basis for improving water sector performance.
In recent years, comparative research on China and India has become increasingly popular, not only because of the economic rise of both countries, but also because, despite considerable differences in political and economic structures, there are striking similarities in the problems the two countries face. In the field of public policy, comparative work has been conducted on telecommunications policy (Jayakar & Liu, 2014), environmental policy (Govindaraju & Tang, 2013; Surana & Diaz Anadon, 2015; Mittal et al., 2016), and science and technology policy (Crescenzi et al., 2012).
In the area of water governance, however, there has yet been little systematic comparison between China and India. For instance, little is known about how China and India deal with the shared set of water challenges – water scarcity and water pollution – brought about by rapid urbanization, industrialization, and uneven resource endowments. A recent study indicates that both China and India will suffer from severe water stress by 2050 (Fant et al., 2016). At the same time, there are considerable differences in the performance of the water sector and its future trajectory in the two countries. In China, 95% of the urban population has access to piped water supply, typically 24/7, while only 48% of India's urban population has access to piped water supply, often with an inadequate level of service (Asian Development Bank, 2013).
There are three possible propositions to explain the differences in water governance between China and India. The first has to do with differences in the two countries' political and legal systems – China as largely a unitary form of government and India as highly pluralistic. A unitary form of government is sometimes seen as more capable and decisive in dealing with policy problems than a system with many veto players. The second argument focuses on differences between the two countries' cultures and histories. For example, China has an ethnic majority and has been governed by a central government for several millennia, while India's mode of governance traditionally has been highly decentralized to suit its ethnically diverse society. The third proposition argues that differences between the two countries can be explained by different stages of economic development.
An emphasis on these explanations, however, runs the risk of underestimating the importance of micro-institutional variables – water laws, policies and administration – in shaping the performance of the water sector. A country's political system, culture, history, and stage of economic development are undoubtedly among important variables determining its water sector performance, but they are not amenable to actions taken by policy-makers and water sector managers.
The purpose of this thematic issue is to highlight these micro-institutional variables and illustrate how they can be used as a basis for comparative water governance in the context of China and India. Papers included in this issue focus on comparison between China and India across key areas in water resource management, including variations in water institutions (Araral & Ratra 2016), water rights (Jia et al. 2016), water pricing (Lee et al. 2016; Shen & Reddy 2016), public–private partnerships (PPPs) in the water sector (Wu et al. 2016), river pollution (Wang et al. 2016), irrigation systems (Nickum & Mollinga 2016), integrated water resources management (IWRM) (Wu & Leong 2016), and transboundary water policies (Ho 2016).
The intended contributions of the special issue are threefold. First and foremost, a comparative study of water governance provides opportunities to reflect and draw lessons for both countries. While both China and India have made substantial efforts in improving the performance of their water sectors in the last few decades, significant challenges remain. These include the problems of severe water pollution, access to clean and affordable water supplies, sustainable management of scarce water resources, and management of international river basins, among others. Second, China and India are key riparian countries in some of Asia's most important international river basins, such as the Brahmaputra, Mekong, Ganges, and Indus, and their approaches to water conflicts in these rivers have significant impacts not only on water security but also on regional stability. Finally, comparative water governance is a new and undeveloped field of study. This special volume introduces a Modified Institutional Analysis and Development (MIAD) Framework as a tool to facilitate a more systematic, theoretical, and comparative approaches to water governance in the context of comparative study of China and India.
Given the large number of micro-institutional variables in the water sector in areas such as water laws, policies and administration, there is a need for a conceptual and analytic framework for comparative water governance. We propose one such framework – the MIAD Framework – modified after Ostrom's (1994) Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Framework (see also McGinnis & Walker, 2010; McGinnis, 2011).
Modified IAD Framework
In the section that follows, we explain the elements of the framework and why we think this is helpful in general in comparing water governance across countries (Ostrom, 2011).
The institutional context comprises three sets of variables: the characteristics of water (as a resource and as a service), the attributes of the actors involved in the water sector (including investors, regulators, politicians and consumers), and the set of water institutions (including the formal and informal rules of the game, and water laws, policies and administration and their enforcement mechanisms).
Characteristics of water
For comparative institutional analysis, one can think of water either as a natural resource (for example, rivers, lakes, watersheds, underground water, rainwater) or as a service (for example, domestic or industrial water supply, water treatment, water reclamation, pollution control, irrigation water service, flood control service). Water as a resource and as a service are both confronted with a number of institutional issues, including centralized vs decentralized management; public, private or communally owned water rights; public or private management of water infrastructure; subsidized or non-subsidized service; integrated vs fragmented modes of water governance; and use of customary or civil law. Our central argument is that policy and institutional design affect the efficiency, effectiveness, equity, and sustainability of outcomes in the water sector.
From an institutional perspective, water as a resource can be thought of and categorized in terms of water rights (i.e. whether water rights are state-owned, privately owned or traditionally owned as a common pool resource). Ownership of water rights, in turn, has implications for efficiency, equity and sustainability through its effects on pricing, investments and financing (Bruns & Meinzen-Dick, 2005). For instance, when rivers and lakes are treated as common pool resources and enforcement is weak or missing, the predictable outcome is unmitigated water pollution (as in the case of China's Yangtze and India's Ganges). When groundwater rights are unclear and unenforceable, the predictable result is unsustainable use of groundwater resources (as in India). As we argue in this paper, the different attributes of water as a resource and as a service create different incentive structures that could help explain variations in the performance of the water sector.
Another attribute of water as a resource is the presence of externalities. For instance, river basins are characterized with upstream–downstream externalities. In the case of international river basins, this can lead to environmental, economic, social and even political externalities. Lack of clarity on surface water rights can lead to conflicting claims between upstream and downstream provinces (as in India) or between nations. The problem of externalities has provided the theoretical justification for integrated water management. In practice, however, the implementation can be highly complex due to large political, administrative, and contractual transaction costs in a river basin, i.e. the costs of monitoring, coordination, agreement, and enforcement of agreements, as well as resolving conflicts (see, for example, Biswas, 2004). Overall, externalities can lead to conflict or cooperation, depending on how water institutions are structured to deal with these tensions.
Water as a service also faces a number of institutional issues (Dinar & Saleth, 2005). First, some aspects of water services, such as flood control, may not be priced adequately, which can lead to their sub-optimal provision and production. This is why governments take full responsibility for large-scale flood control projects. Second, missing water markets have provided the theoretical basis for proposals to facilitate or simulate the functioning of water markets through assignment or auction of water rights. In some countries, for instance Chile, water rights and water markets are well developed. We hypothesize that variations in the efficiency of the water sector among countries can be partly explained by variations in how these two institutional issues have been dealt with.
Third, water supply and sewerage in urban areas have characteristics of natural monopolies owing to their economies of scale. This has important implications in designing socially efficient concession agreements for engaging the private sector. In practice, urban water monopoly concessions are typically auctioned off along the principles of competition for the market, i.e. the most efficient operator wins and gives up its monopoly profit. The performance of natural monopoly concessions – for instance Metro Manila and Metro Jakarta – can be compared in terms of their auction and contract designs. One can hypothesize that significant variations in performance can be attributed to the way the auction mechanism has been designed in these two concession areas.
Finally, urban water supply is a politically salient good (Tortajada et al., 2016). In democratic countries with regular competitive elections, for instance India, politicians have the incentive to pander to voters by promising them free water (Whittington et al., 2015). In equilibrium, no political party would promise to raise water tariffs. In non-democratic countries such as China, local authorities have relatively more autonomy to adjust water tariffs and price them at cost recovery levels. As a result, water utilities in China are more likely to be financially sustainable and more capable to expand and improve water service as compared to those in India.
By focusing on these institutional attributes of water as a resource and as a service, scholars of comparative water governance would be able to more systematically explain why water performance varies among different countries.
Attributes of actors
Comparative water governance requires an analysis of the attributes and beliefs of actors regarding water as a resource and as a service (Ménard & Saleth, 2012). In India, the water sector contains a large number of veto players – including courts, state governments, media, civil society, and consumers – in contrast to China. Likewise, in India the Ganges River is deeply regarded as sacred while no river system has such standing. Likewise, in some countries, water is widely regarded as a basic human right that should be provided free of charge and should be the responsibility of the state. In India, this is a widely prevailing view (at least among politicians). Privatization of water service is thus often resisted in many countries – including India – but much less so in China. In many developing countries, including India, irrigation service is provided free or is heavily subsidized because of the belief that the state should not charge poor farmers for irrigation services. Again, this is not the case in China.
The players in the water sector can be divided roughly into consumers (domestic, industrial, and irrigation), investors (state-owned firms, private firms, associations), regulators (urban water, irrigation, environment, health), and politicians and other interest groups, each of them with their own set of interests. Mapping out their interests and the power relations among them is key to understanding the political economy of water on a range of issues, such as pricing, private sector participation, the role of state-owned firms and user associations, and decisions on flood control, among others. For instance, in India, the urban poor have a strong political voice and politicians usually pander to their demands for free water. Increasing water tariffs in India is more difficult than it is in China. In rural areas of India, farmers get subsidies for electricity, which makes it easier to extract groundwater. In China, migration to urban areas has left rural areas with inadequate labor to operate and maintain irrigation facilities. Declining irrigation service has led to a shift towards the use of cheaper pumped irrigation, leading to rapid groundwater extraction.
In China, state-owned energy firms play a more important role in water resources' development than do public water agencies. This is because water and energy are intertwined in China and state-owned firms have the technical capacity to undertake large-scale hydropower projects. In India, state-owned energy firms do not have the same power and capability as their Chinese counterparts.
The mapping of the interests, power relations, and capabilities of actors in the water sector is an important step in systematically comparing water governance across countries.
Water institutions comprise the third set of variables in comparative water governance. Water institutions refer to the formal and informal rules of the game and their enforcement mechanisms (for an extensive discussion, see Saleth & Dinar (2004)), including water laws, policies, and administration. The variations in outcomes (efficiency, equity, and sustainability) among countries can be attributed to a large extent (but not exclusively) to variations in water institutions and their enforcement mechanisms.
Water laws are important as they provide the framework that sets the rules about water rights (state, private, communal, hybrid, riparian). They define how different water sources (groundwater, surface, watersheds) are treated (i.e. IWRM, polycentric management or fragmented management). Water laws also define who controls water resources and services, i.e. centralized vs decentralized; local vs provincial, national or federal; and communal vs traditional control. Water laws also define the extent of participation of state-owned firms, private sector firms or user associations in water investment projects, for instance, in water resources' development, irrigation service management or urban or municipal water supply projects. Variations in the outcomes of water as a service and water as a resource can be partly explained by variations in water laws among countries.
Variations in water policies among countries, including approaches to water pricing and PPPs, can also help explain variations in water sector performance. Water pricing – both for urban water and irrigation water service – varies considerably between China and India, and within China and India. Water pricing policies in turn are shaped by variations in the political economy of water in China and India. In India, frequent competitive elections, poor water service and a relatively large number of poor households have made the prospects of raising urban water tariffs more difficult than in China.
Although China and India welcome private sector participation in urban water supply through PPP arrangements, there are significant variations in the two countries' approaches to PPP. China favors PPP for water treatment plants but not water supply concessions. In contrast, India utilizes PPPs for both. China is relatively more successful in attracting PPP in water compared to India. In China, state-owned firms play a more significant role in water resources' development (including in the construction of dams and large-scale canals) as well as in water treatment plants and urban water supply as compared to India. China and India both favor farmer participation in large-scale irrigation management, yet performance in these areas varies considerably between the countries. We can hypothesize therefore that variations in the performance of the water sector can be partly explained by variations in their water policies.
By water administration, we refer to the organizational structure of water management: centralized vs decentralized; fragmented vs integrated; the breadth and depth of expertise in water resources' management and water supply; the existence of water apex bodies or independent water pricing bodies; the availability of reliable water data for planning and investment; mechanisms of accountability of water officials at all levels; and the extent of the application of science and technology to solve problems in water resources' development, water pollution and urban water supply.
China and India vary considerably in terms of water administration. For instance, China has an apex water body (the Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC) in China) but India has no equivalent body with the same power, expertise, and resources. Water in India is managed by state governments, which has led to conflicts with other state governments sharing the same river basin. This has not generally been the case in the Yellow River Basin in China. Local governments in China, which run local water utilities, have considerably more political autonomy to raise water tariffs than their counterparts in India, who are subject to more veto requirements given India's democratic governance structure. Because China has more financial resources than India, it can afford to make considerable investments in water research and development, for instance, in monitoring of water pollution, construction of dams, and water treatment plants, among others.
Economic development and political economy
Water institutions are not the only determinants of the performance of the water sector. Water laws, policies, and administration are not static. They evolve with a country's level of economic development (see Araral & Yu, 2013). In this sense, levels of economic development can also explain variations in water sector performance between China and India. The rapid rise of incomes in China means rapid urbanization and hence fewer constraints on raising water tariffs for urban water supply. Rising energy demands in China also put pressure on state-owned energy firms to develop hydropower resources (Shalizi, 2006).
Economic development in turn generates demand to improve water supply and clean up polluted bodies of water. Affluence provides more financial resources to water agencies to invest in the water sector and upgrade their professional capabilities. What we have, therefore, is a virtuous cycle of economic development leading to improvements in the water sector. This has important implications for water sector reform, i.e. large-scale/‘big bang’ water sector reforms are often driven by economic development and cannot be pursued independent of economic reforms (Ménard, 2013).
There is also the political economy of the supply and demand for water institutions. Some groups will demand certain water regulations – for example, the urban poor will demand price regulation of water services; cities downstream of a polluted river basin will demand pollution control from upstream areas; foreign investors in water supply will demand commercial risk guarantees; farmers will demand compensation from urban water users. In addition, there is an element of leadership. Institutions do not just evolve on their own; it takes public entrepreneurship and leadership to push for institutional reforms (Saleth & Dinar, 2004).
In this sense, water institutions can be thought of as exogenous variables that vary with levels of economic development, political economy dynamics, and strength of public leadership. Water institutions can also be path-dependent and hence institutional reform is slow, if not difficult. For instance, in a democratic country like India where there are numerous veto players, reforming water laws, policies, and administration is more difficult (but not impossible) compared to China.
All of the above factors suggest that outcomes in the water sector (efficiency, effectiveness, equity, and sustainability) cannot be explained only by water institutions, important as they are. Rather, these outcomes are also driven by levels of economic development, political economy dynamics, and the role of leadership in reforming these institutions. For this reason, our MIAD Framework includes economic development, political economy, and leadership as predictor variables.
In conclusion, the MIAD Framework can be used in comparing water governance across countries to identify key variables that shape the incentive structure of players and their behavior, and understand how this in turn affects outcomes and performance. To summarize, the key variables are as follows: (1) the attributes of water as a resource and as a service; (2) the attributes of the players – the consumers, regulators, infrastructure providers and financiers, politicians, donors, and bureaucrats – and their interests in a given policy or institutional design; (3) the set of institutions – the formal and informal rules of the game – water laws, policies, and administration; and (4) a set of exogenous variables, including economic development, technology, and political structure, among others.
Papers in this volume
The papers in this special issue examine different facets of the MIAD Framework in the context of comparative study of China and India. Some papers examine the challenges of governing water as a resource (for example, the problem of externalities such as river pollution or challenges of international river basins). Others treat water as a service (including pricing of urban and irrigation water and the political economy of pricing). Still others approach comparative water governance by focusing on micro-institutional variables, such as water laws, and particularly water rights (private vs state vs communal), water policies (PPPs, pricing policies), and water administration (centralized vs decentralized management), among others.
Araral & Ratra (2016) focus on variations in water institutions (water laws, policies, and administration) (see Figure 1). Based on a survey of 182 experts in water resources' management, they find that the quality of water institutions in China is consistently higher than in India. They suggest that variations in the water sectors in China and India can be explained by variations in the countries' water institutions. For instance, compared to India, water laws in China impose greater legal accountability among water sector officials, stipulate wider scope for private sector participation and demand a higher level of integration of water laws with other laws. Second, China places a greater emphasis on promoting the integration of water policy with other policies (i.e. energy, agriculture, industrialization, and urbanization); on implementing principles of cost recovery; and on promoting private and foreign investment in the water sector. Lastly, they find that China has a considerably higher level of administrative capacity and a comprehensive institutional structure in policy implementation, as indicated by the presence of independent water pricing and water apex bodies, the establishment of accountability and regulatory mechanisms, and the application of science and technology for water management.
Issues related to the assignment and enforcement of water rights are covered by Jia et al. (2016). They examine the importance of water rights as a key determinant of efficiency and equity in water resource management between the two countries. In the MIAD Framework, water rights are one of the major institutional variables that help explain variations in water sector performance.
Similar to Araral & Ratra (2016), their comparative analysis focuses on two dimensions: the characteristics of water rights as defined by laws and regulations, and the enforcement of water rights. The authors report several significant differences between China and India. First, both surface water and groundwater resources are owned by the national government in China, while in India surface water rights and use rights belong to state governments and groundwater is owned by landowners. Second, the ownership of water, water use rights and water-withdrawal rights are treated separately in China but not in India. Third, because of its system of water rights, China has implemented a water resources' fee system to recognize the rights of owners, while there is no such system in place in India.
The paper also identifies considerable similarities between the two countries. Current water rights trading projects in China and India are still in their early stages of development. Slow progress can be attributed to the administrative legacies of the two countries. The authors conclude that existing water rights' arrangements in China and India are far from adequate in protecting the countries' water resources.
Water pricing is the subject of the contributions of Lee et al. (2016) and Shen & Reddy (2016), the former focusing on urban water pricing and the latter on water pricing overall. These two papers illustrate several dimensions of the MIAD Framework: (1) beliefs about water as a human right that should therefore be provided for free or subsidized by the state; (2) the political economy of water pricing; (3) how levels of economic development affect pricing policies; and (4) the nature of water service as a local good (and therefore subject to intense politics). Lee et al. (2016) find that, despite significant differences in China's and India's political and administrative structures, recent reforms in urban water tariff regimes in both countries have had similar trajectories. In both countries, for example, operational authority has been devolved to municipal governments, along with greater emphasis on cost recovery through user fees. They find that authority over tariff setting remains largely outside the domain of the water agencies and is highly political, and tariff adjustments are much less frequent in both countries than they should be.
Shen & Reddy (2016) offer examples of contrasting water pricing practices between China and India. In China, groundwater and surface water resources are treated equally as far as management is concerned; groundwater is charged at a higher rate than surface water, and the charges are higher for regions where groundwater is over-exploited. In India, groundwater is entirely left for use by landowners and while it accounts for more than 50% of irrigation water, no fees are charged for groundwater at all. They point out that variations in water pricing in China and India can be explained by variations among the countries' water institutions. For instance, China has adopted a national and comprehensive water pricing framework based on cost of resources, treatment and distribution, and environmental requirements. In India, responsibility for water reforms lies with the states and, as such, there are no coherent guidelines on setting water tariffs. As a result, we see more variation in pricing practices in India than in China. Second, China has relied upon state machinery to implement water sector and pricing reforms, while India has relied on participatory institutional arrangements, such as water user associations (in irrigation). These different approaches simply reflect the fact that the state plays a central role in China while democratic, participatory approaches are employed in India. Echoing Jia et al. (2016), Shen & Reddy (2016) also suggest that clarity in property rights in water is a necessary condition for the success of water pricing reforms. This paper illustrates the relationships between water rights and the political economy of water pricing.
Wu et al. (2016) underscore the importance of tariff reforms in their comparative analysis of PPPs in the water sector in China and India. The paper suggests that water sector performance – particularly the extent of PPPs in the water sector – can be partly explained by the credibility of water laws, regulations, and pricing policies, along with strong support and oversight by the national government, and the extent of private sector development. Their analysis shows that China has emerged as one of the world's most active markets for PPPs in water and sanitation in the last two decades. From 2001 to 2012, there were 237 PPP projects in water and sanitation in China, accounting for 40% of the total number of such projects globally; the Chinese population served by private water companies increased from merely 8% in 1989 to 38% in 2008. In contrast, the private sector has played a rather limited role in India's water sector.
The paper by Nickum & Mollinga (2016) explores the determinants of governance and the performance of large-scale irrigation development in China and India. It highlights and reinforces a consistent theme present in this volume: the importance of institutional context and its path dependence as well as the importance of political regimes as determinants of water sector performance. Tracing irrigation developments back to the late 1940s, their analysis finds that, even though China and India exhibit strong similarities, they operate in very different political regimes. For instance, both China and India have a long history of state involvement in irrigation management. Both saw massive expansion after the late 1940s, although India adapted and adopted the models developed in the colonial period while China opted for a modified Stalinist model. Both countries are also similar in the way the central government has attempted to relate with local water users (and enroll them into state-led development); in the types of policy instruments deployed to shape that relationship; and in the problems encountered. On the other hand, the authors note that despite these similarities, and the considerable differences within each country, India generally appears to have worse outcomes. They conclude that the avenues for more successfully addressing the ‘wicked’ problem of canal irrigation reform are contextual and regime-dependent, both between the two countries as well as within them. This is because the state–water user interface in canal irrigation is a particular, and to some extent specific, instance of the state–citizen interface characterizing the federal and state/province level political regimes in general.
The last three papers in the special issue focus on water resources' management for river basins, an area in which both India and China – having some of the largest river basins in the world – offer interesting lessons. Collectively, these papers illustrate the challenges of externalities in river basins and how different governance regimes matter (i.e. an integrated, top-down and centralized approach in China or a fragmented, bottom-up approach in India). They also illustrate the relationship between state capacity, level of economic development and river basin performance (see Figure 1).
Based on comparative analysis of the Yellow River Basin in China and the Ganges River Basin in India, Wu & Leong (2016) assess the progress towards IWRM by employing the Process Analysis Method in which a tailored indicator set is selected to span three domains, namely environmental performance, social well-being, and economic development. Their analysis shows that there are significant differences in terms of institutional capacity towards IWRM. In the context of a decentralized government, as seen in the case of the Ganges River Basin, where a ‘bottom-up’ approach is used with heavy reliance on local authorities and non-governmental organizations, it is more challenging for India to undertake integrated planning and respond to competing needs, although such an approach might work well in addressing local issues and needs (see also Wu et al., 2013). In the context of a centralized government, the YRCC plays the dominant role in terms of water sediment regulation, pollution control infrastructure development and alleviation of water-related risks, showing greater capacity to cope with increasing uncertainty and risks. The authors conclude that a more centralized and ‘top-down’ approach might be more conducive for IWRM.
Severe water pollution is among the top policy priorities in both China and India. Wang et al. (2016) examine the effectiveness of policy measures and institutional structure in combating river pollution through a comparative case study of the two major rivers in China and India – Yangtze and Ganges. The paper illustrates the nature of the good – i.e. the problem of rivers as open access goods that lead to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ (over-pollution). In theory, variations in the magnitude of river pollution between China and India can be explained by how their water laws, policies, and administration address the problems arising from rivers being open access goods. Not surprisingly, the paper concludes that pollution in the Yangtze River is better managed compared to the Ganges in India, in large part because of the centralized and integrated approach followed by China.
While the availability of financial resources undoubtedly plays a key role in dealing with river pollution, as water infrastructure development tends to be capital-intensive, the quality of water governance is equally important. Comprehensive planning and regulation over total quantity of pollutants are among the key contributing factors in the improvement of water quality in the Yangtze. Such effective management is attributed to a centralized water governance system that assists with long-term, cross-region and capital-intensive projects. They conclude that significant disparities between China and India in their institutional structure, regulatory approaches and policy instruments in dealing with river pollution may help explain variations in outcomes. Their analysis suggests that efforts in combating river pollution in the two Asian giants have encountered significant challenges, such as the lack of coordination among multiple governmental agencies at different levels and limited participation of non-state actors in policy-making and implementation.
Transboundary water issues are of critical concern for both India and China, as both countries share major international river basins with many riparian countries. The paper by Ho (2016) compares the transboundary water politics of China and India, both of which can be described as hydro-hegemons. It illustrates the challenges of managing externalities in the context of international river basins involving hydro-hegemons and small countries.
Ho argues that hydro-hegemons can provide both positive and negative forms of leadership, the former leading to cooperative outcomes and the latter to conflict in transboundary river basins. As a positive hydro-hegemon, China cooperates multilaterally with other Mekong riparians, while India takes a limited sovereignty view by sharing water with Bangladesh and Nepal in the Ganges. Ho suggests that regional context and domestic politics constrain the behavior of hydro-hegemons and, more importantly, determine the forms of positive and negative leadership they provide. When multilateral mechanisms already exist in the regional context, hydro-hegemons are constrained to cooperate multilaterally. This, Ho argues, explains why China cooperates multilaterally in the Mekong while India rejects multilateralism in the Ganges. Domestic considerations also explain why China cooperates multilaterally in the Mekong but avoids water-sharing discussions. In India's case, electoral politics account for the eventual signing of the Ganges and Mahakali treaties after decades of negotiations.
This introductory paper has shown the value of the MIAD Framework as a tool for comparative water governance. It does so by specifying various dimensions of the institutional context and how they could explain variations in the performance of the water sector. We hope that the framework helps advance the current theoretical and applied discourse on comparative water governance as a basis for improving water sector performance.