PGIF Project: Political Economy of Water and Environmental Sustainability in India

Principal Investigator

Nikhar Gaikwad
Nikhar Gaikwad

Project Description

Inadequate water supply ranks among the most pressing challenges facing poor citizens in developing countries. States across the globe are moving to expand environmentally sustainable water networks for drinking and sanitation. Yet uptake of formalized, municipally provided water services is often meager, with citizens instead opting to rely on private, informal, or illegal water-service provisioning that burdens local ecosystems. This proposal seeks to develop a research program and stakeholder partnership in conjunction with the Columbia Mumbai Global Center on the political economy of water and environmental sustainability. The research program focuses on studying the determinants of citizen preferences and constraints regarding access to water and public services through a series of surveys and field experiments in India. First, I propose organizing a results dissemination conference for a large-scale, multi-stakeholder randomized controlled trial on the causes and consequences of municipal water access for Mumbai’s slum residents that is currently underway at Columbia. Second, I propose a pilot research project to examine how the provision of information regarding local water scarcity, drought, and environmental insecurity, alongside information regarding the policy levers available to states to respond to these ecological vulnerabilities, can alter citizens’ public policy preferences pertaining to resource provision, as well as their water practices, consumption habits, reliance on unofficial and official sources of water, and health outcomes. My goal is to study cost-effective, scalable, and easily implementable ways to help citizens get access to water and environmentally sustainable services through state channels. This proposal builds on research projects that have already secured external funding, and seeks to generate scientific knowledge that will contribute to a substantive research program on the political economy of water and environmental sustainability rooted at Columbia University and spanning the Mumbai Global Center and the broader scholarly and policy community in India.