Category: Water

Al Son Del Río

English + Español
Wending our way down the Atrato River in Colombia’s Chocó region, we finally reach the town of Puné. It is a fickle June afternoon, one of those humid tropical afternoons when the sun and water alternate in sudden torrential rains. “The river is everything to us,” …

Water: The Last Word

A man was shot and killed in a dispute in June 2010 over a water connection in San Juan Cancuc, Chiapas, Mexico. A Zapatista settlement coexists, if uneasily, on the edge of the municipality. Residents of the nearby community of El Pozo had threatened to shut off Zapatistas water connection. A confrontation ensued, shots followed, with one fatality and nine wounded. …

Water, The Energy Sector and Climate Change in Brazil

As a Brazilian, I am very proud of the rich natural resources of my country, in particular water resources. As an engineer who had worked in the Brazilian energy sector for the last fourteen years, I am very proud of the infrastructure built over the last seventy years that has allowed the use of water resources responsibly and intelligently. But as a hydrologist and doctoral student in water resources,…

Water-Friendly Cities?

The world just turned urban. For the first time in human history, urban citizens make up more than half the world’s population, the 2006/2007 UN-Habitat State of the World’s Cities Report tells us. In the last century, Europe and the Americas experienced intense urban growth. Today this is the reality for Asia and Africa….

Water in Oaxaca, Mexico

The story of water in Oaxaca, Mexico, a picturesque place that draws international tourism, illustrates Mexican, Central American and worldwide water problems. Increasing population with ever higher demands for water, more cement constructions and paved streets, cutting down of forests, water pollution, a lack of water treatment plants and water infrastructure, a lack of environmental laws and law enforcement, …

A Review of Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict

Stephen Ferry was teaching a documentary photography workshop in Cartagena when he saw an image that revealed how very little he knew about violence in Colombia. The photograph depicted a town reduced to ashes after members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a guerrilla group founded in 1964, blew up an oil pipeline. The experience was a negative epiphany that made him grasp the destructive impact …

Water Access

Take a moment to imagine your day without water. No morning shower, no coffee, no glasses of water throughout the day, no flushable toilet, no washing your hands. Beyond being an unpleasant day, without water we as a human race would simply perish. Not only are we as physical beings made up largely of water, we depend on it to remain hydrated, to clean and purify, to transport and to sustain …

Making a Difference: Displacement

Maria and I shared two things when I met her in Medellin, Colombia: name and age. However, even that was questionable, for her tired eyes and silvery wisps of hair made her look twice her age as she sank onto the crate opposite mine, the first time she had sat down all day. Seen in the flickering light of a few candles, heard over the steady beating of the rain against the tin roof of the shed, …

Investing in Latin America’s Water Factories

Trouble had been brewing in the Bolivian village of Santa Rosa for weeks. That morning, one of Serafin Carrasco’s cows had been killed, the neighbors angry that Serafin and his four colleagues were starting a watershed forest conservation program. “We should wait a few months for the tension to disappear,” the four others had agreed. Although alone in his determination, Serafin was in no mood to give up….

A Review of Reframing War and Local Conflict in Guatemala: Guatemala, la infinita historia de las resistencias

The collection entitled Guatemala, la infinita historia de las resistencias, represents a turning point in our understanding of that country’s turbulent and ultimately tragic late 20th century. Its eleven chapters—with the exception of two on the city—are dedicated to the core of the conflict: the indigenous countryside. Compiled by Guatemalan sociologist Manolo E. Vela Castañeda, the book definitively shifts the spotlight …

Grandmothers and Engineers

A little known fact about Venezuela is that grandmothers and engineers are at the forefront of the struggle to improve access to water and sanitation in poor neighborhoods. Nancy la Rosa, Rosalba Ruíz, Florencia Gutiérrez, Petra Escalona and Sulay Morales, all in their golden years, are working as spokespeople and organizers of the technical water committees (MTAs, mesas técnicas de agua) …

From Water Wars to Water Scarcity

When Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived at the new Uyuni airport last August and found no water running from the tap, he publicly reprimanded and promptly dismissed his Minister of Water. As it happened, the pipes were merely frozen. The incident underscores the critical—and highly symbolic—role of water in the politics of this landlocked Andean nation. …

First Take: The Struggle for Clean Drinking Water in Latin America

For the last few years I’ve been taking students from the University of Miami to the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. We study the environment and the culture. We record the squeaky, hissy conversations of giant land tortoises and the volcanic-black marine iguanas that are found nowhere else. We swim with sea lions and penguins. …

First Take: The Political Geography of Water In a Changing Brazil

“One must begin with water,” wrote the historian Fernand Braudel, because the provision of water services is one of the foundations for civilization. People and societies want protection from floods and droughts; they want water to drink, to irrigate their crops and to produce clean energy. Brazil is a case in point for how one country has used water as a platform for economic development, …

El Líquido Vital

In global terms, ours is the troubled century of water. Expanding populations, extreme climatic events, and threatened or contested sources of “the vital liquid” are guaranteed to cause more crises—even regional conflicts—in the coming decades. But let us tighten the focus to the strip of land in Nicaragua between the Pacific and Lake Nicaragua, south of Rivas all the way to the Costa Rican border …

Cooperative Sanitation in Brazil’s Favelas

Many of us who live in the developed world and in urban areas in the developing world would have a hard time imagining what it would be like to live in an area with open sewers, or no formal sewer facilities whatsoever. And yet, according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JPM), an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide did not have access to improved sanitation…

Climate Change and the Amazon

Most have heard so many times that hydropower is “clean” or “green” energy that they are surprised to learn otherwise. Unfortunately, the reality is much more complicated. Dams, especially those in the tropics, emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases, and to categorically call them “clean” is a mistake.

Amazon Rivers

The vast Amazon rainforest spans over eight South American countries and covers an area of approximately 6.7 million square kilometers. Thirty million people live in the Amazon, coexisting with about 10 percent of the known wildlife species. The immense network of rivers, lakes and wetlands overlapping this area forms the largest watershed on earth, accounting for 15 percent to 16 percent of the total river discharge into the oceans….

A River for Millions

Seventeen–year–old Erika Ybazeta went to school in the small town of Santa Eulalia in the Peruvian highlands. The town is less than an hour’s drive from Lima, the coastal city of nine million that is the nation’s economic and political center. After graduating, Erika was only able to find work doing subsistence farming on her family’s small parcels of land in the nearby rural community of Cashahuacra. …

Making Water Safe in Haiti

Madame Aubry swoops through the front door of her two-story cement blockhouse in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince to greet her guests. She is a petite bundle of cheer, with a ponytail that swings in synch to the allegro tempo of her gait. Her caramel skin is punctuated only by a beauty mark below her left eye and a few beads of sweat that have aggregated in her cupid’s bow. …

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