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April McAlpine


MSc Disaster Management and Sustainable Development, Northumbria University, 2009

PhD Project (working title)

Patronage, water and women (at the margins): Cambodia’s contaminated groundwater and how poor and marginalised groups negotiate access and rights to safe water in a post-conflict, authoritarian state.


Many rural Cambodians suffer from a lack of adequate, clean domestic water, commonly relying on groundwater, rainwater and surface water for their domestic water needs. This has lead to widespread rural water poverty.

This is further compounded by the fact that groundwater from the underground aquifer, once heralded as a cost-effective source of convenient, pathogen-free drinking water for rural populations, has been found to contain unsafe levels of naturally occurring heavy metals such as arsenic, fluoride and nitrate as well as agricultural and industrial pollutants. I will be researching water poverty in the Cambodian socio-political context, particually how women and marginalised ‘others’ access safe drinking water under a regime dominated by hierarchical control, patron-client relationships and the neoliberal development agenda of donor agencies. I would like to understand what such a combination does to peoples’ capabilities to access water. In such a context, is it possible to move beyond top-down aid interventions to grass-roots social movements which result in the radical transformation of power relations?

Research interests

Water poverty and marginalisation
Gender and power relations
Neoliberal development agenda
Environment and development


Jones, S. and McAlpine, A. (2009), A review of environment and development priorities for Cambodia, CALIBRE Project, The University of Manchester


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