Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Concerns about water unite diverse conflicts over extractive industries in Guatemala. In addition to other social and environmental harms, the overuse, contamination, and diversion of water are the foremost drivers of community opposition to mining, hydroelectric dams, and agrarian monocultures. Mines use immense quantities of water, lower water tables, and risk contamination; dams divert water from downstream communities; monocrops capture rivers and dump toxins into water systems—each presents risks to health and livelihoods in adjacent communities. These effects exacerbate existing problems with water access and quality already
compounded by global warming, contributing to widespread ecological collapse. They also highlight the incompatibility of the prevailing development model—based in attracting foreign investment to exploit natural resources— with the human right to water, as well as the failure of state institutions to provide credible environmental assessment or effective regulation. Extractive industries effectively privatize regional water systems—stealing and poisoning water for millions. Water is therefore a central theme in the defense of territory, an umbrella movement frame that leverages indigenous rights, cosmovisions, and consultation against extractive development, and movements for food sovereignty”. Community frustrations crystallized in the 2016 March for Water which sparked numerous legal and political proposals. Water defenders increasingly turn to independent water science to rebut industry environmental impact assessments. This paper assesses the current and potential significance of water activism to strengthen ecological alternatives by highlighting ecological risks of extractivism, combining movement frames, linking community organizations, forming citizen scientists, and reinforcing the need for consultation.