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Research Article // Infrastructure Shaming and Consequences for Management of Urban WEF Security Nexus in China and India

By Daphne Gondhalekar and Jörg E. Drewes. This study demonstrates that even when water stress and awareness are high as in Shaxi and Leh, it is not a straight-forward process to implement technology alternatives in already available centralized sewerage systems. The authors concludes that international consulting companies implementing infrastructure development and investment, represent large scale driving forces, by continuously reinforcing a pattern when implementing a centralized sewerage system.



Worldwide, consumption of resources such as water, energy and food continues to rise exponentially despite environmental and climatic change related challenges. Centralized sewerage systems continue to be implemented worldwide despite being very water and energy intensive, and although this is not always the best option for regions facing water scarcity. Deploying the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus approach, particularly through alternative technology options that can support decentralized water reclamation with integrated resource recovery, can enable resource conservation and more effective management of the WEF security Nexus for local governments with limited capacities. However, a certain pattern of “business as usual” infrastructure development and investment linked to infrastructure shaming continuously reinforces implementation of centralized sewerage systems, thereby hampering deployment of alternative technology options. This study uses two typical case study towns, Shaxi in China and Leh in India, to describe this pattern. The study finds that alternative technology approaches were in place in both towns. Yet after international consulting companies got involved, centralized sewerage systems were implemented despite limited water availability and large segments of the population not having flush toilets. This study discusses management of the WEF security Nexus implications thereof in the context of cities worldwide and a systemic socio-technical transition to a circular economy


January 2021




Gondhalekar, D., & Drewes, J. E. (2021). Infrastructure Shaming and Consequences for Management of Urban WEF Security Nexus in China and India. Water, 13(3), 267.


Download the full research article here.

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