Prices and Politics in Andean Water Reforms

R.A. Boelens, M.Z. Zwarteveen

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    80 Citations (Scopus)


    Water rights are best understood as politically contested and culturally embedded relationships among different social actors. In the Andean region, existing rights of irrigators¿ collectives often embody historical struggles over resources, rules, authorities and identities. This article argues, first, that the neo-liberal language that is increasingly used in water policies is ill-suited for recognizing and dealing with these social, cultural and political dimensions of water distribution. Local water rules and rights, their dynamics, and the way they are linked to power relations, local identities and contextualized constructions of legitimacy, remain invisible in neo-liberal policy discourse. Second, this same discourse actively destroys these local rights systems and presents itself as the only viable cure to the problems it generates. The ways in which local irrigators¿ collectives attempt to protect their water security raise questions about the fundaments and effects of neo-liberal water reforms, but these questions are neglected or poorly understood. This article proposes a more situated, layered and contextualized approach to Andean water questions, not just to improve representational accuracy but also to increase political visibility and legitimacy of peasant and indigenous water claims. What is needed is not just a new `typology¿ or `taxonomy¿ of water rights, but an alternative `water rights ontology¿ that understands locally existing norms and water control practices, and the power relations that inform and surround them, as deeply constitutive of water rights
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)735-758
    JournalDevelopment and Change
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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