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Water grabbing in the Cauca basin: The capitalist exploitation of water and dispossession of afro-descendant communities

Irene Vélez Torres
Department of Human Geography, University of Copenhagen; and the Centre for Social Studies, National University of Colombia, Bogota, Colombia; irenevt@gmail.com, ivt@geo.ku.dk

ABSTRACT: This article examines water grabbing in the Alto Cauca in Colombia as a form of accumulation through ethnicised and racialised environmental dispossession in the capitalist system. Characterised by privatisation and historical trends of exclusion, this violent accumulation model has shaped a particular form of environmental racism leading to negative impacts experienced in historically marginalised Afro-descendant local communities. Analyzing two development projects in the upper watershed of the Cauca river - the Agua Blanca Irrigation District Project and a Project for Diverting the River Cauca - the article concludes that many actors are responsible for the negative effects of the regional development model. These include the state, national and foreign private companies, and powerful international economic stakeholders.

KEYWORDS: Water grabbing, dispossession, Afro-descendants, environmental racism, socio-environmental conflicts, Colombia