Planning for Water Security in Southeast Asia: Community-Based Infrastructure During the Urban Transition

Planning for Water Security in Southeast Asia: Community-Based Infrastructure During the Urban Transition

By James Nguyen H. Spencer

Science Diplomacy: Managing Food, Energy and Water Sustainably

This book examines how four communities in the rapidly developing cities of Southeast Asia have creatively solved growing environmental problems. It’s description of how community-level collaboration in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia provide new ways for thinking about how marginalized people can co-create their own equitable and efficient infrastructure.

Hardback, 250 Pages


June 2022

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

This project centers on one of the material drivers of local democratic processes. Too often in public, scholarly, and policy debates, conversations about participatory democracy devolve into voting rights, formal governance procedures, and other relatively abstract processes. While important, this point of view can often obscure the very immediate and material concerns of citizens, urban residents, and others that are simultaneously “citizens” of communities of varying geographic scales when it comes to – for example – the roads they travel, the electricity they consume, the schools they attend, and the water they use. The intention of this book is to examine the daily urban infrastructure needs of citizens, especially under rapid growth contexts, as a window into the broader concern with participation in governance, development, and visioning the future. 

The central premise of the book, as well as the key lesson for readers, is that public works and infrastructure are the backbone of democratic processes, and that democratic processes begin at the very local level. Without it, the process of collective governance fades beyond the immediacy of daily life. The process of imagining, financing, building, using and demolishing large, material projects such as bridges, sanitation systems and water systems in particular places are, on the one hand, an important technological and design problem. On the other hand, they are the physical manifestations of social, political, and economic relationships reflected in society, as the famous urbanist Lewis Mumford once noted (1937). The extent to which communities build physical infrastructure and which types of it says a lot about how those communities organize themselves. At the same time, the formal and informal loyalties and relationships among a community influence the types of built environment and infrastructure they get. 

Using this premise, the book describes several case studies from Southeast Asia that illustrate the embeddedness of governance structures in the built infrastructure as a way to encourage readers to consider the material, built environment stakes involved with participatory democracy as well as the importance of democratic participation in the visioning, building, and management of large-scale urban projects.


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Author Information

James Nguyen H. Spencer is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Political Science who is currently the Vice-Provost and Dean of the Graduate School at Louisiana State University. His work in planning and public administration work in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia date to 1989 and span a period of transformational change in the region.


Science Diplomacy: Managing Food, Energy and Water Sustainably

Table of Contents

Introduction; Chapter 1: Water and Human Security; Chapter 2: Global Urbanization: The Confluence of Periurbanization and Urban Transition; Chapter 3: Community-Based Public Finance of Deep Well Water Systems in Peri-Urban Java; Chapter 4: The Peri-urbanization of Can Tho and the Rise of Entrepreneurial Water Suppliers; Chapter 5: Ha Noi: Bulk Water Retailing in Peri-Urban Areas; Chapter 6: Peri-urbanization, Co-Production and Institutional Culture: The Case of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority; Chapter 7: Beyond Resilience: Are We thinking about Entitlements, Participation and Governance in the Right Way?; References.


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