‘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.
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The authors trace the history of the global nexus narrative through the standpoint of water – the substance which by its very nature has multi-pronged uses in household consumption, farming, urban utility, energy generation or ecosystem services. Although ‘nexus’ is now the theme in many academic papers and conferences, the need to take a holistic look at development outcomes has not ‘trickled up’ to decision-making levels of governments and multilateral agencies.
The reason for this is simple: silo-ed thinking, turf tussles and narrow departmental horizons embedded in our political structures. How to come out of the confines of such flawed development planning is the theme of this book, and thankfully there are examples of where things have gone wrong, and how they could have been set right.