The role of knowledge in shaping water use and access in Indigenous territories in southern Chile

Authors: Johanna Höhl*,
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Cultural Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Water, governance, knowledge, Indigenous people, Chile
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 39
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Although the Andes in southern Chile are mainly snow-covered in winter and in summer they strech out through lush deep green forests, the municipalities on its foothills in the Biobío, Araucanía and Los Ríos regions, as well the Indigenous communities in these areas complain about increasing water scarcity not only in summer but all year round. The mentioned territories count on a high number of hydroelectric projects, forestry and agricultural activity. Hence, water use and control are distributed unequally. In some parts, tankers supply drinking water. Although natural, economic, legal and social factors influence the availability and distribution of water, knowledge and information play a central role as they mold the interactions around water in the studied area. How are knowledge and information linked to institutional practices and thus co-producing water scarcity? This research focuses on understanding the relationships between the different water users and investigates the kind of information and knowledge they use, produce and communicate. Through an analysis of the discourses of the Mapuche, the Indigenous people involved in the selected case studies, as well as public and private agencies this research aims at an empiric understanding of how governance processes and structures are modified in contexts where different conceptions of water and its use are in dispute. Thus, this study seeks to contribute to a more holistic understanding of water scarcity and links it to the knowledge and information gaps producing power struggles regarding the access and use of water.

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