Dancing to the tune of democracy: agents negotiating power to decentralise water management

The current debate on decentralisation offers a partial and polarised view on the sharing of power to manage water. Drawing New Institutionalism as applied in the social and ecological sciences, the paper argues that decentralisation represents a complex adaptive process, wherein agents draw upon the activities of multiple actors and their rules to negotiate and renegotiate their unequal power relations. Examining a watershed in the Indian Himalayas as a case study, the paper demonstrates the incremental and cumulative integration of statutory and socially-embedded rules in facilitating the agents