Planning for Water Security in Southeast Asia

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, 226 Pages


September 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.


"This is a beautifully written book about an urgent topic: how marginalized communities are accessing water in rapidly urbanizing contexts. Spencer is masterful at balancing the messiness of case studies while not losing sight of what we can learn from these cases and possibly generalize and scale. The book will soon become required reading for practitioners and scholars alike interested in contexts where communities, civil society, and the state, to varying degrees, are struggling to innovate the delivery of core urban services where municipal financial resources are limited and urban populations are continuing to grow.”— Victoria A. Beard, Professor and Associate Dean for Research Initiatives, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Cornell University, USA.

"A cutting-edge framework linking community-level institutions with access to water in peri-urban areas. This book is a must-read for scholars and practitioners interested in inclusive urban policies."— Shabbir Cheema, former director of the UN Development Program and senior fellow of the East-West Center and Harvard Kennedy School.

"Spencer has produced a groundbreaking book, focusing on four case studies from three post-Cold War South-east Asian countries in the Global South, highlighting the importance of rural communities in developing alternatives to policies for community development and management dictated from on high; as well as managing new water infrastructure gaps that accompany rapid urbanization."— Edmond J. Keller, University of California Los Angeles, USA.

“This book provides a vivid explanation of how local community institutions and collective governance play a fundamental role in shaping, not only a democratic process to meet their needs for public infrastructure and services but also a public policy making process for the urban sector in urbanizing cities in Southeast Asia. It is an invaluable resource for all readers from academicians, and development practitioners, down to community leaders to understand ways that community problems can be solved. The book comes just in time when constraints in local development finance and service delivery are countering one another in the urbanizing world. Thus, it is a useful reference for policy and decision-makers to take into account a proactive role in responding to the local needs.”— H.E. MENG Bunnarith, Ph.D., Deputy Director-General of Land Management and Urban Planning, and Deputy Secretary-General of National Committee on Land Management and Urban Planning, Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, Cambodia.

This book is a reader-friendly presentation of the details of professional standards (i.e., FASB’s Accounting Codification Standard 820 and IFRS 13: Fair Value Measurement) and the practical issues in Fair Value Measurement and Disclosure, including the differences between GAAP Standards and IFRS Standards — Choice

James Spencer’s book develops a framework of interoperability in hybrid systems to critically investigate how community-based small-scale service providers interact with and complement big infrastructures to allow residents to maintain their water access entitlements in peri-urban geographies experiencing changing environments, economies, institutions, assets, and consumption patterns. The framework is applied to interrogate models of water infrastructure governance and supply provision across peri-urban, post–Cold War Southeast Asia in Gresik (Indonesia), Can Tho and Ha Noi (Vietnam), and Phnom Penh (Cambodia). —Nidhi Subramanyam, Journal of the American Planning Association

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

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


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