Accepted paper:

Emergent environments: time and transformation in a watershed management project


Sophie Haines (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how environmental imaginations are contested in the infrastructural devices and practices that mediate resource use, conservation and tourism in a community-based watershed management project in rural Belize.

Paper long abstract:

A global framework of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has been pitched as a move away from visible concrete infrastructures of megaprojects and top-down national management, to decentralised governance at catchment level, with principles emphasising stakeholder participation, scientific data, and water as an economic good. It has been adopted in many places in Latin America; Belize enacted its IWR act in 2011. I explore the conjunction of devices and practices that mediate drinking water provision, conservation, tourism, and other concerns in a community-based watershed management project in rural Belize. What tangible and intangible infrastructures influence water practices for rural residents, and what are their spatial/temporal affordances? If we see logistics as provision of services by moving things (or ideas) from one place to another, many operations are at play here: piping potable water, monitoring water quality, harnessing ecosystem benefits, generating tourist income, enacting local governance, maintaining park boundaries, mobilising research grants… What happens when people contest the units of analysis and management, or the direction of travel? Anthropologists have explored aquatic environments as infrastructure, whether enrolled as such through imposition of management plans (Carse) or as inherent features in multispecies assemblages (Morita). Here, a sub-watershed is bounded as a protected area, supplemented with pipes and tanks, and contested as a site for negotiating tourist preferences, environmental (and human) health, and environmental justice claims that exceed its boundaries. This paper examines the kinds of temporalities and environmental imaginaries that shape and emerge from attempts to debate and manage watershed logistics.

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Logistics, time and environment