Negotiating citizenship through communal water management in highland Ecuador
Armijos Burneo, Maria Teresa
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This research examines the formation of Water User Associations that administer communal drinking water supply systems in highland Ecuador and explores the ways in which they have become one of the many spaces through which indigenous and peasant comunidades negotiate and define citizenship rights. While policy debates and academic research have recognised that safe access to drinking water is an essential aspect of life in terms of wellbeing, health and productivity, less attention has been given to the cultural and political implications that accessing hydrological resources holds for marginalised groups in society. In other words, what are the uses and meanings that water acquires through time for local people? How and why different claims over water management become a source of power struggles and political contestation? Based on fieldwork and archival research the thesis explores the case of an indigenous and peasant comunidad of Otavalo, where during the past 30 years the establishment of drinking water supply systems has brought significant changes to the local population in terms of self-governance practices and forms of organisation. It argues that Water User Associations, originally introduced by the state to manage water, have become a space through which local communities negotiate local identities and articulate development aspirations. In this way, water has become an important political tool for a traditionally marginalised segment of the population who are, through their everyday practices of water management, demanding recognition of their rights via à vis the state. The thesis also shows, that despite the importance of these institutional arrangements access to water is also determined by power asymmetries and inequalities within the comunidad. By analysing user associations for drinking water systems, this thesis also contributes to an area of study that has been ignored by most of the existing water literature as it has tended to favour irrigation water management because it is considered more ‘traditional’ and part of the ‘hydrological culture’ of the Andes. This is important because there is an estimated 10,000 communal water management systems of which 6,600 to 7,000 are administering drinking water in the rural and peri-urban areas of Ecuador.
CitationArmijos Burneo, Maria Teresa (2012) Negotiating citizenship through communal water management in highland Ecuador. Doctoral thesis, Institute of Development Studies,University of Sussex.
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