Water futures in the Peruvian Andes
(University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
In the Peruvian Andes, glacial retreat raises worries about flood risk in the short term and water scarcity in the long term. Glaciers and mountain lakes are sites of negotiation between urban authorities and rural communities over how these future threats should be valued and addressed.
Paper long abstract:
In the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca mountain range, locals have watched with alarm as glaciers disappeared rapidly over the past decades. Melting ice has caused glacial lakes to grow in volume and number, threatening downstream cities with the risk of outburst floods. This is a significant concern for urban authorities who have sought to address flood risk through security infrastructure at dangerous lakes. Potential flooding is less of a concern for rural communities that instead stress the worry that glacial retreat will lead to water scarcity, posing an existential threat as many depend on glacial meltwater for irrigation and survival. Nevertheless, rural labourers implement the city authorities' lake security projects. Beyond installing and maintaining security infrastructure, they also make appeals to lake and mountain beings to prevent them from causing disaster. Distinct forms of knowledge arise and coalesce as rural labourers and urban authorities engage with a shifting environment. Andean glaciers are sites of negotiation over how water will shape or threaten life in the short and long-term future.
Water futures: making a living in times of environmental uncertainty