CEDLA Events 2020
Fifty public standpipes: Politicians, local elections, and struggles for water
in Barranquilla, Colombia
Tatiana Acevedo Guerrero, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education
Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, the Barranquilla World Bank Project aimed to expand water supply to the southwestern sector of the city, populated mainly by low-income communities. Anticipating the duration of the works, the project included a short-term solution: it would install fifty public standpipes during the first months of implementation. This talk tells the story of the WB project and the fifty public standpipes - which were never built. Its purpose is to analyse how water/power distributions have been reworked and consolidated, highlighting tensions triggered by the project at the national and local level. It evidences the messiness of electoral politics and the complexity of political parties (their competing interests, and the fact that these changed over time). This is of interest as it focuses on electoral politics, a subject rarely touched by the political ecology literature, where water policies’ implementation is frequently portrayed as a process of imposition of a set of measures by an essentially uniform group of political/economic elites. Tatiana Acevedo Guerrero argues that, throughout the project, different and heterogenous governments, regulatory agencies, political parties, electoral movements, unions, and business groups, engaged in confrontations and negotiations about different imaginations of the city.