The ageing of infrastructure and ideologies: Contestations around dam removal in Spain

Lena Hommes
Water Resources Management (WRM) Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; lena.hommes@wur.nl

ABSTRACT: This paper analyses the discussions surrounding dam removal in Spain and, specifically, ongoing contestations around the Toranes Dam. Engaging with scholarship about the temporalities of infrastructure and imaginaries, I show how dam removal is a trend that comes forth from temporally situated and shifting relations in the sociopolitical, technical, financial and environmental networks in which dams are embedded. More than simply a consequence of material decay and expiring use licences, dam removal is also intrinsically related to changing imaginaries about dams, rivers and nature. However, dam removal is contested. Central to it are debates about the definition of, and relations between, nature, society and cultural heritage in the past, present and future. People’s subjectivities – shaped by the dam and its intended and unintended effects on the environment and hydrosocial relations – are also a source of anti-removal mobilisation. The paper demonstrates how dam removal is a fascinating topic that draws attention to the different temporalities dams hold, including the stage of material and potentially also ideological ruin. Dam removal, however, does not (yet?) represent a clear paradigm shift; rather, the reality is messy, with dam construction and removal at times being promoted simultaneously.

KEYWORDS: Dams, dam removal, temporalities of infrastructure, imaginaries, Spain