Water and Territories
Funding Agency(ies):
Principal Investigator(s):
Dr. Audrey Richard-Ferroudji
Axis 2. of the Social Sciences Department /


The Institute holds a strong tradition of multidisciplinary works on rural and environment issues and more specifically in the water field. The works on water underwent various development phases from the 1960’s and the study of the geography of irrigation (Adiceam, 1966, Landy,1992, 2003, Marius-Gnanou, 1991, Racine, 1982). Databases have been developed on irrigation in south India within broader characterisation of the

territory (Guilmotto, 2002) and mapping (Muthusankar 2010, 2014, 2016). In the 2000’s, Olivia Aubriot analysed the implications of water policies (mainly Tank Rehabilitation Program) on farmers’ practices and on social vulnerability, and compared the perceptions of various stakeholders regarding sustainability of resource availability and social water management (Aubriot, 2013, Coste and Plumpidis, 2007).

The links between water security, land use, food production and environment protection are major issues today. Tension between food production and water protection is heightened by their interactions with other land development policies, including urbanization or industry development. Water and land uses change at a high pace around cities. At the same time, concerns for environment protection are increasing. In this context, there is a growing consensus among experts that groundwater resources will be confronted with an increased risk of depletion and pollution leading to more water scarcity and crisis. Water resources users, managers and planners are encouraged to develop strategies that also take future climate conditions into account. Yet the actors concerned may not consider climate change to be an urgent concern, nor even water scarcity, because they face many other concerns such as land access or volatility of market. The challenge is bigger considering groundwater, since it is an unseen resource. Its hydro-geological dynamics are very complex. The stakes over groundwater use are economic, political, social and environmental. Groundwater offers individual farmers irrigation “on demand”. Water authorities lack means for management of groundwater because of the logistical problems of regulating a large number of small and dispersed users. The relations between actors involved in groundwater use and management, are limited or tense.

In the stream of the previous works, the programme on "Water and Territories" questions the evolution of water uses, institutions and policies at the local scale. It contributes to question integrated water management while investigating interactions and interfaces between water management and land development across jurisdictional and sectorial boundaries. It analyses the way that water and land issues are dealt with and made visible by some artefacts and actors (users and their representatives, water professionals, scientists, etc.), with a specific attention towards groundwater. It studies how those concerned deal with the tensions between development and preservation and how water contributes to frame social inequalities.

The programme has strong connections with the urban dynamic program and MESH regarding the approach of science and technologies, as well as with the Ecology Department regarding hydro-systems dynamics and eco-system services. It is oriented toward a wide interdisciplinary dialogue in collaboration also with partners from the Indo-French Water Network.

Materials and methods:

This programme brings together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, who use different methods and approaches in their research: Intensive fieldwork, surveys, ethnographic methods of participant-observation, archival and documentary research, data collection and mapping. The programme relies on a solid data collection from previous works in South India.

Ongoing projects:

Just completed projects:

  • « Scenarios for water and agriculture in Pondicherry Region », funded by DSTE (Department of Science, Technology and Environment of Puducherry Government) – 2016-2017

Main outputs:

  • Dasgupta, Shubhagato, Rémi de Bercegol, Odile Henry, Brian O’Neill, Franck Poupeau, Audrey Richard -Ferroudji and Marie-Hélène Zérah, 2016. “Water Regimes Questioned from the ‘Global South’: Agents, Practices And Knowledge”.  Proceedings of Conference held on January 15-17, 2016 at New Delhi. https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01348563
  • Aubriot, O., Ed. (2013). Tank and well irrigation crisis: spatial, environmental and social issues. Cases in Puducherry and Villupuram districts (South India). Concept Publishing Company. Delhi.
  • Coste, N. and N. Ploumpidis (2007). Bittersweet water. Irrigation practices and modern challenges in South India (Co-authors : K. Anupama, O. Aubriot, Y. Gunnell), Trilingual DVD (French, English, Tamil), Publications Hors Série 5, Pondicherry : French Institute of Pondicherry."
  • Workshop "Water Territories Viewed from Social Sciences", September 2005, IFP/MIDS/Pondicherry University
  • Atlas of irrigation in South India :http://www.demographie.net/atlasofindia/atlas91/files/ica_si.htm
  • Guilmoto, Christophe Z. "Irrigation and the great Indian rural database: vignettes from South India." Economic and political weekly (2002): 1223-1228.

Staff ( IFP & External )

AUBRIOT O., Associated researcher
CASILE A., Researcher
LASSAUBE G., Affiliated Doctorate
LAFAYE DE MICHEAUX F., Affiliated Doctorate
LANDY F., Director
RICHARD-FERROUDJI A., Associated researcher
MUTHUSANKAR G., Head of GIS projects
GUETAT-BERNARD H., Head of the Department