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The book investigates the complexity of the Latin American mega cities and the multiple commitments of the apparatus of the state with a focus on the failures of the public water sector. It offers an innovative interpretation of large-scale urbanization, one of the most challenging questions affecting Latin American governments and society.



1. State, Water and the Production of the Latin American City

The introductory chapter situates the debate on the Latin American city in the wider historical and geographical perspective of colonisation, nation building, economic development and neoliberal reforms. Because Latin America is a diversified and dynamic region, a critical assessment of large-scale urbanisation offers a helpful entry point into its socioeconomic and environmental complexity. Particularly the achievements and failures of public water services reveal a great deal about the organisation, functioning and politicisation of metropolitan areas, as well as about the commitments and limitations of the state. The chapter finally explains the structure and innovation of the book, especially regarding the nexus between Latin American megacities and the evolving apparatus of the state using the dilemmas of the water sector as a critical category of analysis.
Antonio A. R. Ioris

2. The Exclusionary City, Political Statehood and a Thirsty Population

Urban dilemmas represent today some of the most challenging questions for Latin American governments and society. The region is one of the most urbanised in the world and has a significant proportion of its population living in large, chaotic metropolitan areas, including a growing number of megacities. A proper examination of large-scale urbanisation requires a coherent framework of analysis, as discussed in the chapter, able to address metropolitan changes, sociospatial inequalities and multiple forms of interaction and reaction. The key player behind urban transformations has been the state apparatus, which must be understood as a constantly evolving entity, fraught with contradictions and conflicting interests. Water policy-making demonstrates the territorialisation of sociospatial disputes, the diversity of interventions and multiscale agency and identity.
Antonio A. R. Ioris

3. National Development and Urban Water Demands through the Mexican Capital City

The Mexican state apparatus has been the object of sustained, often violent, disputes between different elite groups and the wider national society. With the political settlement achieved in the early 20th century, the state was able to promote a reasonably successful agenda of national development, which nonetheless increasingly exhausted its results and was partially replaced by controversial liberalising reforms since the 1980s. The national capital city encapsulates, in dramatic ways, the process of national building, economic growth and political clashes. It is now one of the largest megacities in the planet, spreading to many states and municipalities, but has to rely on distant water reserves and large engineering infrastructure, which has caused renewed forms of controversy, antagonism and uncertainty.
Antonio A. R. Ioris

4. The Urbanisation of Lima, Neoliberal Reforms and Water-Related Tensions

Lima is an emerging Latin American megacity and the most critical case of a large metropolis located in a coastal desert. Urban development, in particular since the middle of the last century, consolidated a dualist city in which the large majority of the population has to live in marginalised, precarious settlements. Macroeconomic and political reforms adopted since 1990 have tried to enhance and regulate the housing market and, crucially, incorporate water infrastructure projects as a key element of business-friendly programmes. The Water for All initiative, closely examined in the chapter, constitutes one of the most emblematic examples of the ongoing process of water commodification, of the political appropriation of the metropolitan water utility (SEDAPAL) and of the mounting manifestations of corruption.
Antonio A. R. Ioris

5. Water Problems and Conflicting Water Values in the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region

The failures of urbanisation in the city of Rio de Janeiro have serious repercussions on a larger geographical space, including catchments that supply water to the growing megacity. Urban conflicts can be directly associated with conflicting water values and contrasting forms of valuation. The chapter makes use of the concept of positionality to describe clusters of water values forged around cooperation and competition for water allocation, use and conservation. The explanatory function of positionality is demonstrated by the evolution of water use in the Baixada Fluminense, where the prevailing positionality has conventionally depicted water as an economic resource. Such centralised positionality has been challenged ‘from within the state apparatus’ by concerted calls for better governance. In contrast with those two perspectives, there exists also a vast range of water values articulated by the local communities in their struggle for survival and political recognition.
Antonio A. R. Ioris

6. About the City, Water and the State: The Way Forward

The final chapter summarises the main findings, in particular the conclusion that water dilemmas represent the common moment of truth of all Latin American metropolitan areas. The analysis of urban water issues also serves to emphasise the politicised and constantly evolving organisation and functioning of the state apparatus. Recent policies and investment programmes have tried to conceal the ideological and class-based goals of politico-economic reforms. Consequently, meaningful alternatives to urban inequalities require not only a critical understanding of the connections between past and present, but also between personal and interpersonal attitudes with national and international scales of interaction. This requires the recognition of the politicised basis of sociospatial changes, assessing complex cross-scale phenomena in a way that helps to remove pre-established conceptions about the origin of problems and possible solutions.
Antonio A. R. Ioris


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