Struggling Against Water Environmental Inequality through Dialogue and Cooperation: Micropolitics Under Suppressed Public Sphere

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Kenji OTSUKA , Institute of Developing Economies, Chiba, Japan
China has enjoyed rapid economic growth for decades, while not controlled environmental pollution effectively, even brought pollution accidents and conflicts frequently. Especially water environmental pollution has brought sever conflicts in rural area to challenge local governance in which government and industries maintain robust alliance to convert local natural resources into their own wealth on the one hand washing their wastes to downstream farmers on the other hand. Journalists, NGOs and scholars have been aware of this water environmental inequality in rural China as a "structure" to be changed by any institutional reform, however, more endeavor to find a fundamental approach to deepen the reform should be investigated in both theoretical and practical way. Referring to experiences in Japan where severe pollution hazard like Minamata and Itai-Itai disease caused by untreated industrial wastewater under rapid economic growth in 1950's to 70's, it reminds us a series of lawsuits by victims with their supporters were followed by institutional reform for pro-victims. However, such lawsuits succeeded in Japan not only due to growing of social movements but also due to growing of public sphere to allow broader people to join in. Although political reform has been discussed for many years in China, the public sphere is still suppressed by social control of communist party and the government. In this study, promoting “dialogue and cooperation” as an alternative approach to struggle against such a structure in China will be discussed through a field survey on NGO activities in one basin and participant observation on a pilot project of “community roundtable meetings” in another basin where water pollution has been serious. Toward mitigating an inequality under the suppressed public sphere, we could find a possibility of breakthrough by “micropolitics” among local stakeholders, while revaluing socio-ecological relations which residents/NGOs have woven through their own practices.