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Water extractivism and decolonial struggles in Mapuche territory, Chile

Robinson Torres
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences & Department of Land Planning, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción 4070386, Chile; robtorre@udec.cl

Gerardo Azócar
Department of Land Planning, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción 4070386, Chile; gazocar@udec.cl

Roberto Gallardo
Department of Land Planning, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción 4070386, Chile; robertogallardoj@gmail.com

Julio Mendoza
National Commission for Irrigation and Regional Government of La Araucanía, Temuco, Chile; juliomendoza@udec.cl

ABSTRACT: Forestry plantations on Mapuche lands in southern Chile are a critical socio-environmental issue. Through the lens of political ecology and using methods based on historical review, spatial data representation and ethnographic interviews, we propose the concept of water extractivism. We argue that its development via forestry expansion contributes to the lack of drinking water in Mapuche territory, a South American area with significant claims for land, water, native forests, human rights and political autonomy. Our findings reveal the coloniality of nature as it has been manifested in the development of water extractivism in southern Chile. This process began in 1881 with the dispossession of Mapuche communities from their lands by the state, and it continued during the 20th century with colonisation and the introduction of forestry plantations. The last two decades of socio-environmental problems have stemmed from forestry plantations related to a lack of drinking water. Decolonialisation struggles deployed by members of the Mapuche communities through direct action politics and in institutional arenas are among the main social responses to the negative consequences of water extractivism. We conclude by valuing the concept of water extractivism as an analytical tool within decolonial political ecology and we discuss the meaning of the current Mapuche decolonial struggles for water and cultural sustainability.

KEYWORDS: Forestry monoculture, Agua Potable Rural (APR), water trucks, decolonial political ecology, Wallmapu, Chile