The preceding chapters cover a vast geographical space from Iraq to Mongolia, touching on a broad array of issues on water and security including the reconstruction and restoration of societies and ecosystems, transboundary cooperation, geopolitics of water use, agricultural development and national policy-making processes. The contributions are largely detailed empirical studies, most of which are based on intensive field research. Such an empirical approach to the Central Eurasia context brings a welcome corrective to the water and security literature, which has suffered much from deterministic approaches in recent years. Instead of presenting the contributors with a pre-determined definition of ‘security’ and its relationship to water scarcity and sustainable rural development, the initial ‘call for papers’ for the ‘Last Drop?’ conference in The Hague, had challenged the potential contributors to build on the critique of two ‘troubling assumptions’: first, in what can be described as the ‘just add water’ approach, policy-makers expect increased availability of water to be a panacea for myriad economic, political and social problems. Second, the growing scholarly and strategic literature considers real or perceived water scarcity to be an unequivocal threat to national security. These two assumptions are oversimplistic and need to be reconsidered in light of the growing body of critical scholarship claiming that water scarcity is not simply a natural and apolitical outcome and that it need not automatically and inevitably lead to militarized conflicts. The emerging set of contributions have engaged with these two assumptions, bringing to bear different perspectives informed by a diverse set of regional, theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds. The result is an eclectic view of the relationship between water and security that mirrors the complex nature of social reality and acknowledges the danger in resorting to facile, deterministic relationships. This concluding chapter will seek to unify some insights on water and security that emerge from these contributions. The contributions are united in presenting a view of water and security that is inherently multifarious and multifaceted. However, the need to reduce poverty and inequality through socioeconomic development and the ways in which development is ‘practiced’, emerge as the central themes of the role of water in
Central Eurasia. Instead of discussing security, sustainability and development as independent concepts that require separate scholarly and policy-making interventions, the contributions in this volume argue for an integrated and dynamic approach that reveal their interconnections. Such an approach can help recast the security problematique as a way of making difficult choices between providing for the diverse needs of Central Eurasian societies while preserving the ability of natural ecosystems to continue to provide for the sustainable development of the region’s rural and agrarian foundations. This concluding chapter thus begins by summarizing the way in which the contributions paint a complex conceptual picture of security. It then addresses the need for democratizing development in relation to water, as solutions to perceived or real scarcity of water are increasingly being imposed by external actors, ignoring the interests of local communities and overall sustainability. The final part makes a plea for reconsidering the mainstream emphasis on introducing a market-driven panacea of cost recovery schemes, water pricing and corporate influence, and for bringing about forms of re-regulation in order to balance improved efficiency and equity regarding the use, management and distribution of this precious resource.