Research projects

ESR 14: Integrity, infrastructure and water sub-sector reform: comparing large scale irrigation and urban water supply in India and Indonesia

Early Stage Researcher: Preeta Dhar
Host institution: School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Principal supervisor: Prof. Peter Mollinga
Co-supervisor: Prof. François Molle
Non-academic co-supervisor Researcher: Dr. Diana Suhardiman & Dr. Barbara Schreiner


The issue of corruption or rent-seeking often referred to as ‘integrity’ in policy discourse, is a prominent silence in water governance reform debates and scholarship. A key insight that the (limited) literature on corruption in India’s irrigation sector has produced is that it is systemic: it is institutionalised and links the political and administrative spheres, while connecting these spheres with the private (contracting) sector. Recent research on Indonesia has suggested that international development funding for water sector reform has been an important element of the reproduction of the system of political and administrative corruption through the infrastructure investment funds it provides. This project systematically explores these insights to produce deepened understanding of the factors and conditions shaping corruption practices in the water sector, to contribute to better-informed debate and policy-making on combating corruption. This project addresses the following research question: what are the conditions that shape corruption practices in the water sector in India and Indonesia, and what is the role of international funding support for infrastructure development in this?

This research project will:

  1. Analyse how national political system and practices (e.g. election system) predetermine the creation, preservation, and reproduction of political and administrative corruption in the water sector
  2. Analyse how the presence/absence of international development funding (agencies); shape water governance (reform) through its (their) role in political and administrative corruption.
  3. Analyse how governance arrangements in the large scale irrigation and urban water supply sub-sectors differentially shape political and administrative corruption
  4. Analyse how the characteristics of water infrastructure shape political and administrative corruption
  5. Derive short-term and long-term policy recommendations for combating corruption from these findings.

Expected results:

  1. Innovative analysis of corruption practices in the water sector in India and Indonesia
  2. A new framework for systematic comparative analysis of corruption in the water sector
  3. Original contribution to national and global policy discussion on measures and strategies for combating corruption.

About Preeta Dhar

Preeta is a doctoral candidate at SOAS University of London. She has trained and worked as a lawyer and policy researcher in India. She is interested in examining the complexities of governance and policy processes around natural resource governance. She is passionate about environmental rights, ecological justice, and participatory governance. 

Her practice includes working on environmental litigations before the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal, working as a Parliamentary research Assistant and teaching at the School of Law, Environment and Planning at the Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology. She has also worked on and coordinated research projects on transboundary water governance and coastal area management. Through her work, she looks at the interconnections of different practices and perspectives within the policy framework.  

She holds a B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore and has completed her LL.M. in Law and Development from the Azim Premji University, Bangalore.

LinkedIn profile: Preeta Dhar


Preeta Dhar
NEWAVE Early Stage Researcher, Ph.D. Candidate
SOAS University, United Kingdom

Prof. Peter Mollinga
Professor of Development Studies
Department of Development Studies, SOAS University, United Kingdom

Prof. François Molle
Directeur de Recherche Institute of Research for the Development (IRD), France

Dr. Diana Suhardiman
Research Group Leader – Governance and Gender
International Water Management Institute (IWRM), Sri Lanka

Dr. Barbara Schreiner
Executive Director
Water Integrity Network (WIN), Germany