7. Resistance, Social Movements, & Community Building Around Water

Learning Objectives

  • Identify resistance and social movements around water.
  • Analyze possibilities, opportunities, challenges, and dynamics of social movements and resistance.

Key Concepts

Resistance, social movements, issue framing

This video produced by Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India anchored by Society for Participative Ecosystem Development (SOPPECOM), Pune, in December 2016 discusses what social movements around water entail, factors that underpin social movements, mechanisms for building social movements and challenges that could come up.

1. Introduction to resistance and social movements around water

2. Pani Sangarsh Chalwal: Case study of South Maharashtra (India) water movement

Read this case study. The learning objective here is to understand the essential elements of social movements with the help of a case study of a social movement around water from South Maharashtra, India. This movement brings forth two essential elements: resistance and reconstruction as the people who are involved in the resistance are also articulating an alternative pathway and forcing the government to accept it. This case study has been written as part of the Study of Social Movements around water by SOPPECOM and tries to elaborate on the issues we discussed in the video earlier.

3. Kajbar dam: Nubian protests in Sudan

This video describes the struggles of the Nubian people that live in Sudan where they are protesting against the construction of three large dams on the River Nile. The objective here is to observe how struggles in developing countries differ from that in developed countries, in terms of the interests people fight for and the factors that affect their ability to succeed.


This video, published by International Rivers in May 2016, depicts the hydropower vs people conflict in Sudan. The video shows the struggle of the Nubian people to preserve their ancestral lands and keep their rivers free.

4. Nestle: Unbottle water

Nestle, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies is profiting from accessing groundwater and spring water, both valuable resources to locally dependent communities. The video describes its efforts to obtain the rights to spring water in ‘Cascade Locks’ Oregon. The people of the county came together to form a ‘Local Water Alliance’ and pass a ballot measure that prohibits bottling of water in the county for export outside the county. Effective awareness raising, both online and through public meetings, was an integral part of the campaign. Similar fights against Nestle and other consumer good companies, prominently Coca-Cola are going on around the world. The objective of this video is to understand the different elements of a struggle against privatization of water.

“Our Water, Our Future” was created and released by ‘The Story of Stuff Project’ and was produced by Rachel Meyer and published on the Story of Stuff website in 2017. The video details the struggle of the community living in small town called Cascade Locks in Oregon, USA against the large bottle company Nestle against the privatization of their water resources.


5. Shutoff: Detroit’s Water War

More than a hundred thousand customers in bankrupt Detroit city had their water shut down in 2014. The adverse economic circumstances and growing poverty had left thousands unable to pay. The objective here is to get the viewer to think over whether they would consider water to be a human right and if yes, what constitutes a human right to water, both in their own personal opinion and also according to literature.

This video has been published by Vice News in August 2014. The video depicts the struggle of the people when Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department began to turn off the water utilities of more than 3000 households. The adverse economic crises had left thousands unable to pay for water. A strong campaign was launched which has also been called “an affront to human rights” by representatives of United Nations

Key Readings

Key Readings

Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

  • How was the movement initiated? What were the factors that led to its emergence?
  • What is the core promise of the movement?
  • What was the main strategy of the movement?
  • How have the demands evolved? What is the innovative element in the demands?
  • What are the different methods used by the movement?
  • Do you think the right to water should also be seen as an integral part of the right to livelihood?

Further Readings

Further readings

Other related International Waters Lessons

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