Dr Naho Mirumachi
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 2865
Department of Geography
King's College London
Office: Bush House North East Wing, Room 6.03
Naho is Senior Lecturer in Geography at the Department of Geography, King’s College London. Trained in political science, international studies and human geography, she has research interests in the politics and governance of the environment, particularly water. Her latest book, Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World (Routledge) brings together some of her thinking on the political economy of international transboundary river basins and conflict and cooperation over shared waters. Her research on water issues particularly in developing country contexts feeds into broader themes of interest: institutions for environmental governance; power and environmental discourse; scale and agency. Naho has fieldwork experience in the Orange-Senqu River basin in Southern Africa, Ganges River basin in South Asia, and the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia, and most recently Tanzania.
Naho leads King’s Water, a research hub on water, environment and development, spanning the breadth of social and physical sciences. She also directs the interdisciplinary MSc Water: Science and Governance programme, which has attracted students from the UK, Sweden, Netherlands, US, Canada, Chile, Bhutan, Hong Kong and beyond.
Naho is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Water Security Research Centre & School of International Development, University of East Anglia, and collaborates on water security research. She has also been an active member of the London Water Research Group, an independent network of academics, practitioners and activists. She is a Senior Research Fellow for the international research network on Earth System Governance under Future Earth. Prior to joining the department, she taught at the Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science.
- transboundary water conflict and cooperation
- water governance
- environmental security
- framing of natural resources management
My book, Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World (Routledge, 2015), asks how and why shared water resources become contested. I explore the socio-political process of water use and allocation. As such, the book is not just simply about conflict and cooperation that occur in international transboundary river basins. My analysis sheds light on elite decision-makers, the framing of development strategies and water resources demands, and the role of geopolitical factors and geographical imaginations.
A key contribution of this book is the development of a new analytical framework. The Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS (TWINS) traces how basin relationships evolve over time, demonstrating coexisting conflict and cooperation. The analytical framework focuses on the effects of power asymmetry to explain the changes to conflict and cooperation intensities. Informed by intensive fieldwork in Southern Africa and South and Southeast Asia, I bring together insights on the political economy of international transboundary river basins. The paperback version of the book was published in 2017.
“The importance of this book extends beyond transboundary water and the developing world to bring intelligent insights to many water issues. Naho Mirumachi critically examines a number of shibboleths in water management such as: conflict and cooperation are opposites; agreement means decisions are equitable; templates like the creation of strong river basin organization structures leads to better decisions; and increasing resources for the hydrocracy serves the public interest. This is the best book about water I have read in a long time”
Prof. Helen Ingram, The Southwest Centre, University of Arizona and Professor Emeritus, University of California at Irvine, USA
“Transboundary Water Politics in the Development World brings insight and nuance to a field of inquiry dominated by speculation and generalisation…Applying a rich theoretical framework dubbed ‘TWINS’ – the transboundary waters interaction nexus – to three chase studies, Naho Mirumachi sheds new light not only in terms of her cases – the Mekong, Ganges-Brahmaputra, and Orange-Senqu river basins – but in terms of what we know and what we can expect from transboundary water politics. This is a must-read for all those interested in the complex ways a multiplicity of actors, forces and factors come together in the simultaneously conflictful and cooperative world of water resources development and management”
Prof. Larry Swatuk, University of Waterloo, Canada
"Naho Mirumachi’s new book is a comprehensive and rigorous work on the complex world of transboundary water politics and will interest both academics and water sector professionals… This is an important contribution to water management practitioners and researchers, especially those working in developing countries."
Kyungmee Kim, Uppsala University, Sweden, in Water International (2016).
"… no researcher or practitioner concerned with the challenges of transboundary water management should be unaware of the existence or approach of this book."
Laurence Smith, SOAS, University of London, UK, in Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy (2016)
"Mirumachi’s book deserves credit and laurels for unravelling the intricacies of transboundary water politics and revealing the exciting opportunities ahead for theorizing transboundary water governance. The book is highly recommended for both academics and practitioners interested in the topic of transboundary water sharing."
Srinivas Chokkakula, Department of Sociology and Anthropology SOAS, Progress in Development Studies (2017)
"What is of interest in this book is the forensic analysis the author brings to the three show cases, and above all her assessmentof how conflicts between all manner of interested parties can be inflamed or subdued by the skills and machinations of the hydrocracies.Here she offers a fresh and compelling interpretation of international relations and hegemonies with regard to river basin planning."
Professor Tim O’Riordan, University of East Anglia, UK, Progress in Human Geography (2016)
I have written guest blog articles that communicate some of the key messages of the book for academic and policy communities interested in environmental diplomacy, peace and security, and environmental change.
Cooperation Is Not Enough: Why We Need to Think Differently About Water [For New Security Beat]
Reflecting on Transboundary Water Politics to Mark World Water Day 2015 [For WaterDipolmacy.org]
Wicked problems, messy analysis, clumsy solutions? What we need to think about when we talk about water cooperation [For World Peace Foundation]
Reimagining Water Futures:
Based on ideas evolving from my book, I set up a project that focuses on how we can communicate scientific insights and affect change. Reimagining water futures: exploring culture and communication of water stewardship science seeks to develop new ideas on sustainability, equity and social justice in the use, allocation and stewardship of water. It brings together academics, artists and science writers from the cultural sector.
Stemming from my research interests in the politics of natural resources management, I examine three inter-related themes: institutions of water allocation; power and environmental discourse; scale and agency.
Institutions of water allocation: My PhD focused on conflict and cooperation between states over shared waters. The thesis made an original contribution in identifying how conflict and cooperation coexist and developed a conceptual framework, the Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS (TWINS), to examine changes of conflict and cooperation intensity between basin states. The research found that relative material capability and discursive power of basin states influence the establishment and implementation of water management institutions.
Power and environmental discourse: I examine how environmental issues are discursively framed by various actors involved in natural resources management and governance. I employ securitization theory and interpretive policy analysis to analyse the role of discursive power. The empirical research focuses on issues such as water resources management, hydropower development and ‘green economy’ in developing country contexts.
Scale and agency: The politics of scale inform my research on water resources management. My empirical work examines cross-scalar implications of water resources governance and the role of deliberative actors. In addition, I am looking at the cross-sectoral linkages realised through multi-scalar water governance, such as energy and water.
PhD topics and supervision
- Royal Geographical Society Small Grants (2015-2016): £2980
Investigating the link between water, conflict and security: Understanding implications for river basin management in the Pangani River basin, East Africa to build lessons for global policy
- ESRC – King’s Policy Institute Transformative Research Fellowship Scheme (2015): £12,500 with co-I F. Berkhout & M. Pelling.
Transformative natural resources governance: an explorative case of water, food and health in Tanzania
- British Academy Small Research Grants (2012-14): £ 9040 Reconfiguring scales of transboundary river governance: Case study of hydropower development in the Mekong River basin.
- Central Research Fund, University of London (2008): £ 985
- Sumitomo Foundation, Japan (2005-2006): JPY 700,000
Impact, innovation and outreach
I would be interested in discussing potential PhD topics such as:
- Transboundary water conflict and cooperation
- Water governance
- Environmental security; framing of natural resources management
Current PhD Students
- Richard Bater 'Hydropolitik, or the love of abstraction', as 2nd supervisor
- Kristopher Chan ‘Environmental impact of hydroelectric power in Southeast Asia’, as joint 1st supervisor
- Rebecca Farnum ‘Utilising Environmental Resources for Peace: Informing the Constructivist-Determinist Dichotomy through Middle East Peacebuilding Efforts’, 1st supervisor
- Frezer Haile ‘Changing conflict and cooperation in the Nile River Basin: A hydro-political analysis of recent Eastern Nile developments’, 1st supervisor
- Sarah Jones, as 2nd supervisor
- Milan Karner ‘Variations in Hydro-Climatic Vulnerability in a Transboundary Region: A Comparative Analysis of the Two Punjabs’, as 2nd supervisor
- Nuttavikhom Phanthuwongpakdee ‘Recovering with Resilience: Alternative Responses to Thailand Flood’, as 2nd KCL supervisor; KCL-NUS joint degree
I am a Senior Research Fellow of the Earth System Governance Project that brings together a large network of social scientists interested in global environmental change and its governance challenges. I have initiated the Environmental Security working group for the Taskforce on Conceptual Foundations of Earth System Governance. This working group aims to (re)explore environmental security in contexts of global environmental change, engaging in interdisciplinary discussions about links between water, food, energy, climate security.
Selected Talks (since 2011; for full list, send me an email to request CV)
International transboundary river basins and state agency: Contending and contesting rights over rivers, Workshop on Territory, Justice and Rivers, University College Cork, 4-5 June 2015
Water security in the Asia-Pacific region: Fixed scales, missing voices and growth-oriented policy practice? Governing for Human Security: Scale, Voice and Policy Practice workshop, Institute for Asia and Pacific Studies (IAPS) and the Nottingham International Law and Security Centre (NILSC), University of Nottingham 11-12 May 2015
Wicked problems, messy analysis, clumsy solutions? Insights on water & security in the context of South and Southeast Asia. Water and Security in the 21st Century,
World Peace Foundation, with the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy and Water Diplomacy Program, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, 4-6 Mar 2015
Comments on International support for transboundary dispute resolution. Addressing resource conflicts: working towards more effective resolution of natural resource disputes, Chatham House, 26 June 2014
Re-examining transboundary water cooperation through the water-energy-food nexus approach, Stockholm World Water Week, 1-6 Sept 2013
Energy reform, water abstraction and hydropower development: Examining the hydropower boom in Laos, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 27-30 Aug 2013
Knowledge Production in a Rapidly Changing Watershed: Understanding and Communicating Uncertainty in the Mekong River Basin, Water in the Anthropocene: Challenges for Science and Governance Indicators, Thresholds and Uncertainties of the Global Water System, Bonn, 21-24 May 2013
Lead discussant, Analytic Exchange on Global Water Security US Department of State, US National Intelligence Council, Skoll Global Threats Fund, Washington DC, 4 April 2013
Panellist on Shared Water: New Challenges for Peace and Development, Swedish Water House, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) Riksbanken network on transboundary waters and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), Stockholm, 3-4 Dec 2012
Uncertainty, science and policy in transboundary river basins of developing countries, Resolving Science‐Policy Gaps in Transboundary Water Governance, 24 Sept 2012, University of Waterloo
Global environmental injustice in international transboundary river basins, Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference, University of Edinburgh, 3-5 July 2012
Responses to ‘Hydro-climatic change, Conflict and Security’ by Kallis et al., Climate and Security, IDDRI – Sciences Po, Paris, 3-4 May 2012
Securitizing moves and the process of securitization: Case study of the Tanakpur Barrage project between Nepal and India. Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference, London, 31 August – 2 September 2011
Green growth and the discourse of hydropower development in developing countries. 6th International Conference in Interpretative Policy Analysis: Discursive Spaces. Politics, Practices and Power, Cardiff University, 23-25 June 2011
I convened a workshop on ‘Emerging issues of water allocation and governance in the Pangani River basin’ with my colleague, Dr Hans Komakech at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science & Technology in Arusha, June 2014. The aim of this workshop was to explore research themes in a bottom-up fashion with local water users and representatives from government and business. This workshop has laid the foundation for two projects: on water, conflict and security funded by the Royal Geographical Society Small Grants; on transformative natural resources governance funded by the ESRC-King’s Policy Institute Transformative Research Fellowship Scheme.
At the 2013 Stockholm World Water Week, I convened a session on ‘Achieving Justice through Transboundary Water Cooperation’. This session was in collaboration with KCL and University of East Anglia colleagues for the London Water Research Group (LWRG). Based on previous work on transboundary water politics of the LWRG, the session put forth original, cutting-edge perspectives on transboundary water cooperation and justice. A synopsis of the event is available and a full paper is published in Water Policy.
At the 2013 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, I convened a session with Dr. Oliver Hensengerth, Northumbria University on ‘Dams and new geographies of development: Hydropower development in a changing world’. This session informed some of my thinking for the British Academy Small Research Grants funded project, ‘Reconfiguring scales of transboundary river governance: Case study of hydropower development in the Mekong River basin’.
As part of the London Water Research Group activities, I co-direct the Water Security Short Course for Policy-Makers and Practitioners at the University of East Anglia. This intensive five day course examines water security and its implications for policy from an interdisciplinary perspective. This successful course has attracted participants from governmental ministries, UN agencies, regional development banks, donor agencies, international and national NGOs and media.
TV: Interviewed for feature programme on ‘A guerra pela água no mundo’, GloboNews (Brazilian news channel), 5 Feb 2015
TV: Panellist, ‘Shared Waters: New Challenges for Peace and Development’. International seminar organised by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), the Swedish Water House and Stockholm International Water Institute recorded for Kunskapskanalen (Swedish education Channel), 7 Feb 2013.
TV: Panellist, ‘Water: Will it be the cause of future conflict?’ Agenda, PressTV, 6 November 2009
More video clips & soundbites
On transboundary water justice (for the London Water Research Group annual workshop Jan 2013).
On global water politics and international water law (a video commentary to the UN Watercourses Convention User's Guide published 2012 by IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir1zoSoPx4s