IN THE NEWS: Finding the nexus between water, food and energy

By Kunda Dixit [Nepali Times, 26 July 2019]

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‘Nexus’ has become a word with a negative connotation in Nepal, used in conjunction with collusion or complicity: ‘government-business nexus’, or ‘nexus of politicians with the medical mafia’.

Nexus has a nefarious nuance because of the corrupt conspiracies that are hatched in the corridors of power between the political leadership and the captains of industry, giving democracy itself a bad name. An increasing number of Nepalis are disillusioned not just with politicians, but the system of government itself.

Multi-disciplinary social scientists Jeremy Allouche, Carl Middleton and Dipak Gyawali in their new book, The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Power, Politics and Justice, try to reinstate the respect that the word ‘nexus’ has lost. They lay out the necessity of a multi-purpose nexus in designing and implementing development. For too long, we have maintained a tunnel vision in which hydropower was seen as only energy, drinking water only as a utility, or water only for urban supply.

Read more at this link here.

IN THE NEWS: #WeStandByOurPlanet


Taylor & Francis recently launched their 2019 Asia Sustainability Campaign, #WeStandByOurPlanet. For every book sold from the campaign list, they will donate SGD$1 to a local wildlife community.

Two books from CSDS, Living with Floods in a Mobile Southeast Asia and The Water-Food-Energy-Nexus are also included in the campaign listing. Please visit this link here for the catalog of books included in the list.

IN THE NEWS: China winning new Cold War on the Mekong

By Bertil Lintner [Asia Times, 24 June 2019]

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When the state tabloid China Daily ran a paid advertisement in the New York Times extolling the virtues of Beijing’s proliferating dams in Laos, the piece sparked a new cold war controversy.

Entitled “Employment on hydroelectric project in Laos delivers better lives”, the piece stated that a proposed cascade of dams on the Nam Ou River will enable well-paid local workers to buy pickup trucks and provide the poor country with badly needed electricity.

The paid placement also noted the Nam Ou cascade “is a key part of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative and is the first project undertaken by a Chinese-invested company to cover an entire river.”

With its rising regional clout and massive state resources, China has recently gained a clear upper hand vis-à-vis the United States and Japan in determining the crucial waterway’s future development and direction.

It’s an economics-over-environment vision that downstream nations have often opposed but without recourse or resources to fight back there is little they can do as US and Japan-backed counter-initiatives for the river wash away into irrelevance.

A cargo boat on the Mekong River near the Pak Ou tributary, Luang Prabang, Laos, February 1, 2017. Photo: Wikimedia/Christian Terrissen

The new cold war on the Mekong is being fought in part on environmental grounds. International Rivers, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), views China’s dam-building differently than as portrayed in the New York Times’ paid advertisement.

The group states on its website that the propaganda piece “paints a rosy picture of a highly destructive set of dams currently under construction in Southeast Asia.”

Rather than benefiting economically from the construction of new dams, International Rivers claims that farmers affected by the project have lost their land and that many never received the compensation they were promised.

The cascade has resulted in the forced relocation of over 4,000 people and undermined livelihoods for tens of thousands more villages in the river’s basin, the NGO says.

It also claims the company, China Power, is developing 350 kilometers of the 450-kilometer-long river and has “rejected offers from the International Finance Corporation and the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to participate in a broader watershed management planning.”

That is hardly surprising. In recent years, China has managed to outmaneuver the MRC, a decades-old initiative which brings together Mekong River countries for development projects, with the creation of its own Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC).

Lancang is the Chinese name for the Mekong River and the forum, which includes all the riparian countries from the river’s headwaters to its exit in the South China Sea, explicitly excludes traditional regional donors like Japan and the UnitStates.

According to Carl Middleton and Jeremy Allouche, two Western scholars writing for the Italian journal the International Spectator, the LMC “proposes programs on both economic and water resource development, and anticipates hydro-diplomacy via China’s dam-engineered control of the headwaters” of the Mekong.

Read more at this link here.



By Jeremy Allouche [STEPS Centre, 10 April 2019]


A few months ago, I presented the findings of a new book, The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Power, Politics and Justice, to an International Water Association conference on the same topic at Salerno. To my great surprise, I was the only social scientist out of 200 participants.

Nexus approaches help to bridge the separate domains of water, energy and food to highlight the links and interactions between them. For example, hydroelectric dams are obviously sources of energy, but they need (and use) water for it, with knock-on effects for food – changing the conditions for irrigation, fishing or groundwater – in the areas where they operate. So, anyone responsible for large projects, including in developing countries, can use the Nexus to make decisions and think through what problems or synergies they might create.

So for many engineers and environmental economists, who made up most of the audience, the Nexus is an exciting new idea. It presents them with the practical challenge of modelling ever more complexity and interactions between the resources they work with. In fact, the Nexus is becoming so engineering-dominated that our new book is sold on Amazon under the topic of civil engineering!

Read more at this link here.

Jeremy Allouche, Dipak Gyawali, and Carl Middleton of CSDS are the co-authors of the book “The Water-Food-Energy Nexus”. More information about this book can be read here.

UPCOMING EVENT: CU Graduate Student Seminar Series 'The Water-Food-Energy Nexus' [Bangkok, 21 May 2019]

Tuesday 21 May 2019, 13.00 - 16.00 at Alumni Meeting Room, 12th Floor, Kasem Utthayanin Building (อาคารเกษม อุทยานิน), Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand (guide to the venue here)

Our inaugural interdisciplinary seminar will highlight ongoing graduate student research related to the water-food-energy nexus. Students will present cross-cutting research in the areas of political ecology of water, bioenergy, agriculture, and the politics of water allocation in Southeast Asia. Join your fellow graduate students for an engaging exchange of ideas in a relaxed atmosphere!


  • "A political ecology of Bangkok waters: the institutional interplay between subsidence, floods and water infrastructures" by Thanawat Bremard, ABIES, AgroParisTech, France

  • "Alternative approaches toward agriculture and energy nexus thinking: historical, geographical and political processes of socio-‘techno’-nature interactions" by Hiromi Inagaki, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

  • "The politics of water policy making process in Indonesia" by Tanaporn Nithiprit, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • "Industrialization and water quality in Rayong Province, Thailand: are international, national and local water management strategies complimentary or contesting?" by Wipawadee Panyangnoi, GRID Program, Chulalongkorn University


  • Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

  • Dr. Takeshi Ito, Graduate Program in Global Studies, Sophia University, Japan

To register for this event, please send and e-mail to  CU Graduate Student Seminar Series at


UPCOMING EVENT: Book Launch 'Unpacking the Water-Food-Energy "Nexus" in Asia: Power, Politics and Justice' [Bangkok, 21 May 2019]

Tuesday 21 May 2019, 10.00 - 12.00 at Alumni Meeting Room, 12th Floor, Kasem Utthayanin Building (อาคารเกษม อุทยานิน), Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand (guide to the venue here)

The ‘nexus’ of relations between water, food and energy is often seen as a technical matter in public policy, addressing issues of risk, security or economics. In this public seminar, the speakers will discuss their new book on the water-food-energy nexus that challenges some of these underlying assumptions to show that at the very heart of the nexus arise questions about resource politics, ethics, and justice. The public seminar will encourage an interdisciplinary debate on the implications for natural resource policy, including for Asia’s major river basins such as the Ganges and Mekong.

Read more details about the book here, and download an open access chapter.


  • Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

  • Jeremy Allouche, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex (by Skype)

  • Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University


  • Dr. Takeshi Ito, Graduate Program in Global Studies, Sophia University

  • Dr. Supawan Visetnoi, Chulalongkorn University School of Agricultural Resources (CUSAR)


  • Dr. Kasira Cheeppensook, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

This event will be broadcasted on Facebook Live:

To register for this event, please e-mail us your name, organisation, and position to  Anisa Widyasari (CSDS) at The seat is limited and registration will be accepted on first come first served basis.


NEW PUBLICATION: "BOOK: The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Power, Politics and Justice"


Carl Middleton of CSDS is a co-author of a new book, “The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Power Politics and Justice”.

The ‘nexus’ of relations between water, food and energy is often seen as a technical matter, addressing issues of risk, security or economics. In a new book in the Pathways to Sustainability series, Jeremy Allouche, Carl Middleton and Dipak Gyawali argue for a political approach to the Nexus.

Read the details of the book here, and download an open access chapter.


"Beyond the commonplace recognition that the 'nexus' conceptual basis is not new and that integrative imperatives already featured in IWRM, this book further examines the underbelly of the beast and convincingly exposes the political underpinnings of a concept presented as a-political and 'manageable' through integrative tools, expert modeling, bureaucratic reforms and rational efficiency-driven thinking. It reveals the underlying business imperatives and green economy logics, traces the global diffusion of the concept, and emphasizes that issues of distributional justice, knowledge production and democratization of governance need to take center stage if the concept is to be transformative rather than supporting the status quo. An excellent reading for all water students and scholars interested in deciphering the word of water concepts and the interests and values that undergird them." — Francois Molle, Editor of Water Alternatives [Full review here]

"We frequently hear of the nexus - but what does this mean, what does it entail, and where to begin? To such questions, Allouche offers a critical guide. Careful to consider complexities and uncertainties, the theoretical discussion coupled with multi-sited case studies, offers a compelling treatment. Readers wanting to know more of the concept, including political economic and equity implications, will find reading the book to be time well spent." — Leila M Harris, University of British Columbia, Canada

"Skilfully delving into the nuances of the nexus approach, the authors trace and explain the emergence of the ‘new’ concepts of nexus – between water, food, energy, environment and more. Unravelling the tangle of nexus-invoking discourses, motivations and practices yields a valuable, sense-making analysis." — John Dore, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

IN THE NEWS: Review of "The water-food-energy nexus. Power, politics and Justice"

By François Molle [Water Alternatives, 2019]


Although water-food-energy nexus thinking can hardly claim to be new wine, the growth of 'nexus literature' in the past ten years is remarkable. It has gained currency as a buzzword with the potential to convene water experts in global jamborees, to elicit books and special journal issues, and to challenge the long-established Integrated Water Resources Management concept as the new champion of integrative imperatives.

. . .

The book does a great job at showing how a water-energy-food nexus approach emphasises demand-led technological and market solutions, downplays supply-side limits, promotes a technical and supposedly apolitical treatment of trade-offs, and largely ignores the political dimensions that shape control over, and access to, resources. But even in its reductionist form of an optimising tool for cross-sectoral planning or business, the systemic complexity that the nexus seeks to address is baffling, and it is no wonder than in practice empirical work focuses on sub-nexuses using monetary metrics.


Carl Middleton of CSDS is the co-author of this book.

Read full article here
Buy the Book (coming soon)