This book illustrates how people in rural Bangladesh, without any institutional or material support, manage their water resources to make their environment safer or more productive. Case studies of over seven hundred local initiatives show that people have an underestimated capacity to design, construct, maintain and operate relatively complex water management systems and to mobilise large amounts of human, material and financial resources. They are neither passive victims of their environment, nor merely responding or reacting to programmes or services provided by 'outside' agencies. It was found, however, that the capacity to organise is much higher in some regions of Bangladesh than in others. This leads the author to examine conditions under which people get together to pursue common goals through a systematic, comparative analysis of the four regions covered by the research project.
The findings are further reviewed against the backdrop of academic and policy debates on collective action, participation, and management of common property resources.