Publication: Social Dynamics in Water Conflicts: Towards Social-Political Innovations in Urban Systems using the Example of the Water Conflict in Petorca (Chile)
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Year: 2014 ISBN:
Language: Inglés External Link: ...
Type: Abstract
 
Summary:
Already today, more than half of the world population is living in cities. The expected growth until 2050 will produce the need for living space for a further 2 billion people in urban areas – most of it in countries of the global south. At the same time, the overall use of freshwater has increased nearly eightfold over the last century and an increase of demand is expected, which will especially be a challenge for these countries (WBGU 2011; Houdret 2008: 3). Despite of numerous technical innovations and international resolutions, conventions and guidelines on the resource water, the social mechanisms to implement these solutions seem to remain under-explored (Eid/ Kranz 2014: 151). While facing climate change impacts such as water scarcity and droughts on a local level, social innovations may take place; yet, the canon of international provisions cannot reach civil society effectively or does so only unsatisfactorily. Thus, the knowledge about the emergence and potency of such dynamics could help decrease the vulnerability of urban societies, raising their adaptation capability and increase the resilience of the whole city system. Chile, as one of the world's countries with the most ecological conflicts, demonstrates numerous examples for this gap between international and local action. In Chile, water has been privatized nearly completely since 1981 under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. His policies of neo-liberalism were meant to bring economical growth and (material) prosperity to the country. Instead, monopolies emerged – especially on natural resources. This development prevented the expected natural building of an appropriate market price and made Chile the country with the highest water prices in Latin America (Larraín 2013). At the same time, power structures developed in favor of the big companies. Petorca is a region north of Santiago de Chile that includes the cities of Cabildo, Petorca and La Ligua. More than 7000 peasants have been impoverished because of the prevailing drought and more than 50000 people are suffering from drinking water scarcity and missing hygienic care. Climate change, monoculture farming as a developing strategy, water privatization and missing public regulations are known to be the main reasons for the drought (INDH 2012: 142). In 2002, these problems have led to a conflict between the citizens, politicians and big farming companies of the region. The rivers Ligua and Petorca have been declared dried-out since 2004 and 1997 respectively. Nevertheless, agricultural companies found their way to undercut these rivers in order to irrigate their fields (ib.) Facing the ongoing impact of climate change on the resource water an increase of competition between users is to be expected, which will aggravate the conflict. The case of Petorca shows that civil society, living in precarious socio-ecological circumstances, is the first victim to be affected by the water scarcity. It also shows that the current (political) institutions are not able to provide a sufficient solution to the problem. In my presentation I will take Petorca as a reasonable example to discuss which social dynamics can emerge through a socio-ecological conflicts and how they could contribute to the resilience of the urban system. I will also give insights to, and raise the question of, which social innovation might be needed and how a new definition of prosperity could contribute to finding a common path for sustainable development.
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