Contested Territories: Water Rights and the Struggles over Indigenous Livelihoods

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International Indigenous Policy Journal, Vol: 3, Issue: 3

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Boelens, Rutgerd; Duarte, Bibiana; Manosalvas, Rossana; Mena, Patricio; Roa Avendaño, Tatinana; Vera, Juana
International Indigenous Policy Journal
water rights; policies; politics; hydraulic megaprojects; Indigenous territories; livelihoods; culture; neoliberalism; social mobilization; Andean region; Civic and Community Engagement; Latin American Studies; Politics and Social Change; Public Policy
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This paper examines the threats to Indigenous water rights and territories in the Andean countries. It analyzes how water and water rights are embedded in Indigenous territories, and how powerful actors and intervention projects tend to undermine local societies and indigenous livelihoods by developing large-scale water infrastructure. Three cases illustrate the encroachment process. In Colombia, the Embera Katio people’s water territory is colonized by a large-scale hydropower development project. In Ecuador, large-scale drinking water development for megacities aims the water belonging to the Oyacachi community’s indigenous highland territory. In Peru, communal water rights of the Colca Valley indigenous peasantry are under threat because of large-scale irrigation development. As the cases show, Indigenous peoples and communities actively contest the undermining and subordination of their water and territorial rights through a myriad of multi-scalar livelihood defense strategies. The challenges that indigenous peoples face to defend their water-based livelihoods are, however, enormous and growing every day.