Hermen Smit teaches Water Governance at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. His work focuses on the design, construction and manipulation of water infrastructures to understand the politics of water engineering.
After receiving his MSc in civil engineering with distinction from TU-Delft in 2003, he worked as a consultant for Water Boards in the Netherlands and in Bangladesh on the assessment, operation and maintenance of drainage systems. In 2008, Hermen joined UNESCO-IHE (now IHE Delft) as a PhD fellow and (later) assistant professor in Water Governance. Hermen’s PhD research focused on the politics of water development in the Nile basin (with a focus on Ethiopia and Sudan). He currently teaches the courses ‘who and what make water management expertise?’ and ‘institutional analysis’.
Since 2008, Hermen has been involved as a researcher, advisor and project manager in several water research and education development projects. Between 2012 and 2016, he worked on a project with 8 Ethiopian universities to make irrigation education in Ethiopia more practice oriented and interdisciplinary. Between 2014 and 2017, he contributed to the Accounting for Nile Waters research project about the politics of representing water (see www.nilewaterlab.org). In 2019, Hermen started working on an education and research project about ‘the material politics of community involvement in climate proofing Rotterdam’ and on a project with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in post-revolution Sudan to train staff and set up new research about water management to support Sudanese food producers.
TopicShaping the Blue Nile basin - water flow dynamics and manipulations between the Ethiopian highlands and the Gezira Irrigation scheme in Sudan
My recent project ‘Making Water Security’ examines Nile water security through the morphology of the river: it uses the always changing form of the river as a theoretical and empirical device to map and understand how infrastructures and discourses dynamically interact with the Nile. By bringing a history of two centuries of dam development on the Nile in relation with the drainage of a hill slope in Ethiopia on the one hand and irrigation reform in Sudan on the other, the author shows how the scales, units and ‘populations’ figuring in projects to securitize the river emerge through the rearrangement of its water and sediments. The analysis of ‘Making water security’ is more than yet another story of how modern projects of water security have legitimized often violent dispossessions of Nile land and water. It shows how no water user is confined by the roles assigned by project engineers and planners. As ongoing modern ‘development’ of the river reduces the prospects for new large diversions of water, the targeted subjects of development and modernization make use of newly opened spaces to carve out their own projects. They creatively mobilize old irrigation and drainage infrastructures in ways that escape the universal logic of water security.