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Fire and Water: Multi-level legal reforms in Colombian water policies – the negotiations of páramo water communities

Authors: Maria Paula Escobar Tello*,
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Cultural and Political Ecology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: water, informalisation, Latin América, Colombia
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Páramos are water-producing and water-storing Andean mountain ecosystems that are also the most biodiverse high-altitude ecosystems on Earth, whose inhabitants are currently affected by two local and national policies (and a series of legal reforms) that crisscross each other in Boyacá, Colombia. The former framed around the need to ensure water supply, has sought to localise both the provision and the profitability of water supply services by formalising access and distribution though the creation of local public water companies that have sought to register traditional community acueducts, bringing them into a formal market of users and providers. The latter framed around conservation, has sought to regulate (and in some cases restrain) livelihoods and the economic activities at their base by delimiting the bioecological identity of páramos on an elevation axis, whilst aiming to resolve the resulting conflict between livelihoods and conservation with a narrative of green growth and green economies.
This paper, based on a set of in-depth individual interviews with farmers, environmentalists, local, regional and national actors including community household and irrigation water boards, as well as group map-making exercises with communities from the Guantiva-La-Rusia páramo, explores the consequences of this policies intersection and the different ways in which communities have reacted to it. Heterogeneous as these adaptations might be –from overt resistance and creative compromise through to cooperation– these effects flow, drain and fill repositories of institutionalised or informal agency that at once contest and reiterate intricate geometries of power where everything and yet nothing has changed.

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