Communitarian water providers in peri-urban areas: the case of Cochabamba water cooperatives

Minelli, Francesca (2018) Communitarian water providers in peri-urban areas: the case of Cochabamba water cooperatives. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In the cities of the South, water services in neighbourhoods of the poor are often obtained through self-managed organizations. This thesis aims to analyse the way in which these communitarian organizations influence the pattern of urban water governance. I define water governance as comprising state and non-state actors, institutions, practices, visions and discourses whose interactions, clashes and collaboration determine how, where, why, and by whom water and sanitation services are distributed. My fieldwork was conducted in Cochabamba, Bolivia, between September 2013 and September 2014. I carried out 44 interviews with state officials at different levels, leaders of 21 water cooperatives, as well as in-depth case studies in two water cooperatives. This was accompanied by mapping exercises, which allowed me to better place cooperatives in the territory.

Analysing the case of the water cooperatives of Cochabamba, I argue that water cooperatives partially resist the attempt of the state to exercise power over their material waterscape, while also presenting alternative visions of how water provision should be carried out, both as single entities and through networks. Those two elements are fundamental for the dialectic built between the cooperatives and the state, which present instances of both conflict and cooperation. I argue therefore that communitarian organizations are not just subjected to larger-scale processes and powerful actors but that they can exercise agency and influence patterns of water provision.

To understand how cooperatives influence water governance, I firmly ground actors and institutions in a waterscape. Control over their waterscape is a key component of the cooperatives’ capability to influence governance at a higher scale. I argue that the relationship between a cooperative and its members is fundamental for the capability of a cooperative to control, modify and maintain its waterscape. Such a relationship is often based on the feeling of ownership of the members over the cooperatives, a feeling that was created through the history of the cooperatives.

This thesis establishes the usefulness of analysing different scales and spaces to understand water governance in an urban setting. Only by analysing the different histories, forms of control, and visions of actors at different scales is it possible to understand how and why communitarian organizations shape urban water governance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Bolivia, Cochabamba, water politics, cooperatives, community, communitarian organizations, peri-urban, political ecology, water services, waste water, sewage, waterscape, urban water, water politics, state and communities, scale, networks, state control.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Virdee, Professor Satnam and Hume, Dr. Mo
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Francesca Minelli
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-71937
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 13:09
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2019 09:01

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