From natural flow to ‘working river’: hydropower development, modernity and socio-territorial transformations in Lima's Rímac watershed

Lena Hommes*, Rutgerd Boelens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

By combining scholarship on modernity, urbanization and territory, this paper analyses how urban-based visions and ambitions have been realized in hydropower development and specific water access and control arrangements in the Rímac watershed in Lima, Peru. The discourses that sustained and promoted hydropower plant construction and associated development projects in the watershed are scrutinized, showing how the dream of conquering nature through engineers' technical skills was enmeshed with political agendas and visions of modernizing not only nature, but also people. Besides the historical analysis, the paper also explores how historical physical-ecological, legal, social and symbolic reconfigurations continue to shape hydrosocial relations between the city of Lima and the Rímac watershed. Analysing the current management of the watershed's highland lakes and community water use from the hydropower company's tunnels shows how the history of the Rímac is not a clear cut story of water deprivation but rather of complex, entangled, multidimensional relations and dependence. In the context of increasing pressure on water resources, the socio-territorial arrangements and the watershed's history itself are becoming matters of discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-95
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Volume62
Early online date28 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Keywords

  • Environmental history
  • Hydropower
  • Hydrosocial territories
  • Lima
  • Modernity
  • Urbanization

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