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University of Oslo (UiO) (2005)

The guardians of the wells : water, property and power in Amman

Rygg, Dina Skatvedt

Titre : The guardians of the wells : water, property and power in Amman

Auteur : Rygg, Dina Skatvedt

Université de soutenance : University of Oslo (UiO)

Grade : Master of Philosophy in Culture, Environment, and Sustainability 2005

Jordan, according to Indo-Aryan origins of the name, means “the stream that descends rapidly”. In Arabic, another term for Jordan is Esh-Sheri’s – “the watering place” (Jordan River Foundation 2002 : 3). It is interesting to study Jordan, due to its closeness in history, culture and geography to Palestine (as well as its geographical closeness to Israel and Iraq). Jordan is geographically positioned at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East, with a population supportive of Iraq and an economy dependent on foreign (US) aid. The country is also an intriguing object of study due to the diversity which Jordan represents – in terms of climate, people, culture – a diversity in all but natural resources, of which, arguably, Jordan has few, and least of all, water. Much has been written on water scarcity in the Middle East, but far too little from a cultural perspective (Tvedt and Gravelsæter Berg 2001 : 2-3). In this thesis I explore implications of privatisation on people’s lives through an analysis of the relationship between water, power, and cultural perception. My point of departure is that in a country like Jordan, privatisation in the fragile water sector is by many people regarded as a controversial step, and one which will affect, in different ways, all layers of the community. The thesis is centred on LEMA, a private water company which is responsible for water distribution in the greater Amman area. My aim is to investigate knowledge, attitudes and perceptions around privatisation of water from both the professionals working in and with LEMA, and users of LEMA water’s points of view. Jordan is currently undergoing several water development programmes, and is a place where privatisation is a fairly new and fast development. Therefore little is yet known on the impact this has on the local population. For this reason, I believe that this project will be a valuable contribution to the literature and knowledge on water. My main question is : “Has privatisation improved the water distribution and the water situation for the users of water in Amman ?”. To explain this question I draw on perspectives of users as well as professionals working in and around LEMA.


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