Governing water for local development - Solutions to implementation challenges in remote, rural Nepal

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This dissertation recognises practical ways to advance rural development in remote mountainous areas through water service institutions and infrastructure construction. Water is crucial for development, as access to water resources preconditions much of the rural residents' livelihood possibilities and their quality of living. The research focuses on rural Nepal, and more specifically on the implementation of rural development interventions in the country's remotest and poorest regions. The dissertation examines two large-scale water and rural development interventions by surveying selected communities under these projects. Besides institutions and governance, the dissertation examines the contribution of individual interactions to the development processes and outcomes. The overarching research question is 'What are the practically feasible ways to implement and manage water services in developing, mountainous, rural areas?' The research question is scrutinised through three sub-questions: (1) 'Where are the pitfalls of local-level social embeddedness'; (2) 'How can these pitfalls be addressed'; and (3) 'What potential contribution individual stakeholder acts and interactions have to the water service developments and implementation processes?' The research employs institutional bricolage; and the capabilities approach as the theoretical basis and reference literature. Methodologically, the dissertation demonstrates the pragmatist philosophy of science in action and emphasises the strengths of its multi-perspective orientation. The dissertation applies a set of participatory, qualitative research methods. The novelties of the dissertation are threefold: First, the dissertation analytically describes the pitfalls of social embeddedness, identifying three corresponding governance challenges. Second, the findings emphasise that a large share of the operational implementation and local institutional operation occurs in social spaces beyond the direct influence of the regulatory governance discourses and institutions. Yet, the research results indicate that such social spaces are crucial for the development processes. Third, the dissertation acknowledges that individuals amidst these processes possess an important dual role in the studied setting: they are agents of governance as well as agents of locally originated, bottom-up problem solving outside governance. The latter agency remains less acknowledged, but crucial for the development processes and outcomes. The dissertation indicates that individuals and their formal and informal interactions are crucial for governing water and local development in the developing, remote countryside. At the grassroots level implementation, one should therefore focus on interactions, not only at the institutional, but also at the interpersonal level.
Translated title of the contributionVesien hallitseminen paikallisen kehityksen avaimena - Ratkaisuja toimeenpanon haasteisiin Nepalin syrjäisellä maaseudulla
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Varis, Olli, Supervising Professor
  • Keskinen, Marko, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8075-8
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8076-5
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • water governance
  • pragmatism
  • rural development
  • development cooperation
  • Nepal


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