Water crisis in Mapuche territory, Chile: Exploring causality relationships

Gerardo Azocar, Robinson Torres, Natalia Valderrama, Roberto Gallardo

Keywords: water rights, mapuche, Land-use changes, forestry monoculture causing lack of water


This article analyzes the causal relationships between forestry plantations and the lack of water for Mapuche indigenous people in southern Chile. Based on a set of variables, relationships that explain the lack of water for human consumption in the Chol-Chol River watershed, in the Araucania Region, are identified. The variables and data used reflect the dynamics of the land-use changes in the watershed in two periods, the distribution of Mapuche land, the availability of arable land, drinking water consumption, and water rights granted to Mapuche and non-Mapuche people. Relationships between variables were analyzed with the principal component statistical technique, while ArcGis 10.1 was used to process the digital covers and build the thematic maps, which show the spatial behavior of the analyzed variables at sub-watershed level. The obtained results indicate that water consumption is lower in areas of the watershed that have undergone significant land-use changes, consisting mainly of replacement of native vegetation with forestry plantations and agricultural crops. The elimination of native vegetation and the extensive presence of forestry plantations are the factors that have affected water availability for different uses in the Chol-Chol River watershed. We conclude that water is a scarce common good in the watershed and that legal use rights are heavily concentrated among non-Mapuche farmers and forestry companies. This uneven distribution of water rights has created growing socio-environmental conflicts between Mapuche people and forestry corporations.

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Título de la Revista: POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY