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CNRS Researcher

Contact : olivia.aubriot [at]
Telephone : (00- 33) - (0)1 88 12 00 11


Geographer (CNRS Section 39) and has accreditation to supervise research in geography (HDR).

Research Topics

Olivia Aubriot studies the social management of water. In the course of her work on the way farmers manage this collective resource, she has taken a particular interest in irrigation techniques and practices, in how technical and social issues are interrelated and in the territorial dimension of water management. Her PhD focused on a village irrigation system in the low mountains of central Nepal. Having worked on the topic of water rights, she extended her fieldwork to South India (Tamil Nadu), where she was on secondment for three years at the Institut Français de Pondichéry and at the University in Puducherry.

Since 2010 Olivia has once again focused her research on the Himalayas and has contributed to several ANR projects :
- on part of the PAPRIKA project : CryosPheric responses to Anthropogenic PRessures in the HIndu Kush-Himalaya regions : impact on water resources and society’s adaptation in Nepal
- on the multidisciplinary project, PRESHINE, which follows on from the PAPRIKA project and in which she works alongside geographers, glaciologists, hydrologists, climate specialists. The project addresses the impact of climate change on snow cover and the retreat of glaciers, water availability and the way people use this resource on land in the high and middle mountains. Photo-reportage of work by geographers Joëlle Smadja and Olivia Aubriot within the PRESHINE project
- on the TERRE-EAU (LAND-WATER) project, in which the Tarai plain is one of the study areas. The project is aimed at understanding the mechanisms of territorial and political restructurings with regard to water and land, and therefore at discerning the geographical setting where farmers’ adaptation capacities can develop in the face of global change (international migration, climate change, upheavals in land use and land tenure, etc.).

Since 2018 Olivia has been contributing to two new ANR projects :
- Local Forest Governance : Development, Environment and Political Economy in Nepal (Gouvernance Locale des Forêts : Développement, Environnement et Économie Politique au Népal – GoLFor-DEEPN) (2018-2022) which is coordinated by François Libois from the Ecole d’Economie de Paris. The project aims to assess, on a Nepalese scale, the effects of decentralisation of forest management from the Forest Department to the local level (1) on forest cover, (2) on collective action within villages and (3) on the functioning of the local political system. After decades of deforestation, forest cover has improved slightly over the last 20 years. There are no large-scale studies that specifically analyse the causes of deforestation. Economic growth, rural exodus, civil war, the development of alternative energies, and the planting of trees on private land are other potential explanations for this improvement.
- Histories of water and landscapes in Asia. Monsoon, climatic anomalies and societal dynamics in medieval India Histoires d’eau et de paysages en Asie. Mousson, anomalies climatiques et dynamiques sociétales en Inde médiévale – MANDU. This project sets out to investigate the relationships between society, climatic anomalies and water management in semi-arid environments during the late medieval period in India (1100-1500). Marked by important socio-cultural and political changes, this period in the history of social and environmental dynamics is one of the least well documented and known periods of India’s past.


- Irrigation
- technical anthropology
- social water management
- water rights
- territory


- Nepal (mountains and Tarai)
- Tamil Nadu
- Madhya Pradesh

Video (in French) : Olivia Aubriot - La maintenance du canal d’Aslewacaur Un enjeu fondamental pour la survie du canal, April, 2018


Video (in French) : Olivia Aubriot et Joelle Smadja - Recherche interdisciplinaire sur le changement climatique et la ressource en eau dans la région de l’Everest (Olivia Aubriot and Joelle Smadja - Interdisciplinary research on climate change and water resources in the Everest region)


Video (in French) : Nourrir l’Inde par l’irrigation : un modèle remis en question. Problèmes environnementaux et de gouvernance (Feeding India through irrigation : a disputed model. Environmental and governance issues)

List of publications in HAL