Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cochabamba Continued

In this slide show, Jennifer Saltz of Water Today describes the deadly conflict over water privatization in Cochabamba and the ultimate reversal of Bechtel's onerous contracts in the region.

Writing for yes! a year after this video, Jim Shultz describes the decade following the Cochabamba conflict in more detail, including its relationship to the election of President Evo Morales and the encouragement of many other social movements. He points out that although Bechtel was defeated, the people of the region have not yet won access to water. In a separate article from the same source, Jessica Camille Aguirre explains that melting glaciers remain a severe threat to water supplies in the region -- yet another effect of climate change that is disproportionate in the Global South.
Emilia Laime demonstrates the use of a slingshot commonly found at Bolivian protests.
Of course, their effectiveness is determined by the extent to which this expression of bravery
is respected by police and army officials. And of course, this slingshot is now mine!
 I have been hearing the Cochabamba story for several years, but just last autumn I finally had the opportunity to meet somebody from the region -- a textile fabricator whose community is directly affected. Emilia Laime sells sweaters, bags, and other textiles on behalf of a cooperative in her comminty of Arani, about 30 kilometers to the east of the city. As is clear from the map below, this altiplano (high plateau) community is close to the edge of Andes mountains, on which it is dependent for runoff from glaciers and snowpacks.

Prior to meeting Emilia, I believed that the water crisis in highland Bolivia had been solved. When she told us that water for crops, livestock, and domestic use was being rationed at the local well, I asked how this could be, with Bechtel long gone. She replied that climate change had simply reduced the availability of water. The water crises therefore continues, albeit with a new set of villains -- all of us who use fossil fuels excessively. This is quite a clear example of the growing mismatch between climate winners and losers, and the need for work on climate justice.

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