Dams and damages. Conflicting epistemological frameworks and interests concerning "compensation" for the Misicuni project's socio-environmental impacts in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Paul Hoogendam, Rutgerd Boelens

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The Misicuni multipurpose hydraulic project was designed to transfer water from a neighboring watershed to the Cochabamba Valley in the center of Bolivia for domestic, hydropower, and agricultural use. The project involved the construction of a 120 m high large dam and a 19 km transfer tunnel, which negatively affected the rural indigenous host communities that were deprived of productive lands, houses, and livelihoods. This article critically analyzes the process to compensate for harmful effects, demonstrating the existence of divergent knowledge systems, interpretations, and valuing of what was affected and how the impacts had to be compensated. The analysis shows that the compensation was fundamentally a process of negotiation about the meaning and the contested commensuration that was implemented in a context of unequal power relations between state institutions and the indigenous population. This led to unfavorable arrangements for the affected communities. The article details the discussions about impacts, knowledge, and values of key elements of the compensation process and highlights how "compensation" was embedded in the wider struggle over territorial control and natural resource governance. The unreliability of the state institutions worsened the negative impacts for the rural communities because the negotiated outcomes were not always materialized.
Original languageSpanish
JournalWater (Switzerland)
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

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