Research projects

ESR 13: Integrating patterns of urban water governance in Southeast Asia

Early Stage Researcher: Marie Belland
Host institution: Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Principal supervisor: Prof. Margreet Zwarteveen
Co-supervisor: Prof. Dustin Garrick
Non-academic co-supervisor Researcher: Ms. Nila Ardhianie


Safe, sustainable water provision are out of reach for many of the world’s poorest residents. Problems are acute in cities, where fast-growing populations place stress on inadequate water infrastructures. Improvements in access tend to focus on increasing connections to the water network. Yet, networked service comes with its own set of problems: scarce supply, poor service delivery, high costs, high maintenance demands, and/or an inability to extend the network due to illegal land tenure status. Whether out of need or by choice, large numbers of urban dwellers in Indonesia, and the global South more broadly, rely on a complex and dynamic mix of grid-based and off-grid sources. Infrastructural solutions are therefore best understood as hybrid, differing from uniform grid-based provision in cities of the global North. These systems reflect a state of infrastructural coexistence: a mode of urban development that emerges in parallel and in conjunction with formal networked infrastructure. Infrastructural coexistence is the norm in developing contexts, not the exception.

Practitioners need to better understand the drivers that lead urban dwellers to pursue off-grid solutions, the outcomes and trade-offs of infrastructural coexistence, and the governance arrangements that support these models as a solution for urban residents. Under what conditions could infrastructural coexistence promote secure, sustainable, and equity-driven water and sanitation security?

This research project will:

The aim of this research project is to generate an empirically grounded analysis of how networked (‘on-grid’) and independent (‘off-grid’) water infrastructure can co-exist in ways that promote secure, sustainable, and equity-driven solutions for residents of Indonesian cities. The researcher will focus on the city of Semarang, in Central Java, Indonesia. The Ph.D. research will be designed to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Identify and characterize the diverse water infrastructural configurations and their functioning
  2. Evaluate the impacts (distributional, cultural, environmental) of coexistent development and understand how heterogeneous outcomes are locally produced and contested
  3. Develop decision-support tools for policy that promote more just and sustainable outcomes for particular forms of infrastructural coexistence.

Expected results:

  1. A systematic and comprehensive empirical understanding of infrastructural coexistence in water in the city of Semarang, Indonesia
  2. Contribution to the development of policy models enabling sustainable and equitable solutions in Indonesian cities.
  3. Knowledge generated on the conditions under which infrastructural co-existence develops, and the institutional and governance arrangements that make these configurations work as solutions
  4. Documentation of new knowledge in a diversity of formats and media for use by practitioners, governments, civil society, and researchers.

About Marie Belland

Marie Belland started her Ph.D. at the University of Amsterdam Department of Human Geography, Urban Planning and International Development Studies in November 2020 with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN) NEWAVE program. Within the program, she is focussing on “Integrating patterns of urban water governance in Southeast Asia” (ESR 13). More specifically, her research will investigate water governance in the city of Semarang (Central Java, Indonesia) through the exploration of on-grid and off-grid water access modalities. 

Marie holds a Master’s degree in international cooperation and development from the Toulouse Institute of Political Studies. She is passionate about exploring environmental issues in cities. She has worked for two years in the field of scientific cooperation and has conducted research in Ivory Coast, Indonesia, and France. Her research topics have included investigating the experience of air pollution, conflicts and mediation around water, and the development of rooftop urban agriculture.

LinkedIn profile: Marie Belland


Marie Belland
NEWAVE Early Stage Researcher, Ph.D. Candidate
Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Prof. Margreet Zwarteveen
Professor of Water Governance at IHE-Delft and the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Prof. Dustin Garrick 
Associate professor of environmental management
University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Ms. Nila Ardhianie
Director or research
AMRTA Institute for Water Literacy, Indonesia