Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Water as a tool for development. An analysis of the conflict of the Ñuble River, Chile

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posted on 2021-11-13, 20:25 authored by Leaman-Constanzo, Cristian

After three decades of neoliberal policies, there are growing concerns in Chile about how nature is used and understood. These concerns are reflected in the relationship between humans and natural water bodies which has reconceptualised the use of and access to water, especially for rural communities. These reconceptualisations have been affected by the model of water rights and river basin governance adopted which have raised issues about social inequality. As a result, rural communities have argued for greater participation in decision-making on matters that affect their lives.  This thesis explores conflict that arose around the Punilla Dam Project on the Ñuble River, Biobío Region in Chile. The research employs a political ecology perspective to explore the socio-environmental outcomes of water management in this case and in Chile more generally. The case illustrates how water is important for Chile as a tool for development, the role environmental institutions play, and the tensions between peasant communities, irrigators and hydroelectric interests, while placing these tensions in the context of wider economic and political structures. It is clear that water is key in Chile, hence an examination of the encounter between the model of development and nature is required. I argue that the outcomes of these encounters will increase social inequality and marginalisation, showing that a water project is not always good for all. The omission of these issues in places often rich both in biodiversity and socio-cultural heritage is a cause of concern for Chile and more globally.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

960706 Rural Water Policy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Bond, Sophie