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The persistent water problems of Lima, Peru: Neoliberalism, institutional failures and social inequalities

Authors


Correspondence: Antonio A.R. Ioris (email: a.ioris@ed.ac.uk)

Abstract

The contingent relation between water governance and nature neoliberalization has defined most interventions in the water sector around the world in recent years. In the case of the Peruvian capital Lima, the provision of water and sanitation services in the last two decades has been the object of investments and institutional reforms strongly influenced by economic neoliberalism. This essay examines the evolution of these neoliberalizing tendencies, noting the internal disputes, necessary adjustments and underlying problems of water sufficiency in the metropolitan region. The empirical results suggest that, rather than a straightforward process, the neoliberalization of water in Lima has advanced according to political opportunities and technico-operational constraints. The water reforms implemented in the 1990s – when the goal of privatization met political opposition – can be contrasted with the more recent phase in the 2000s, when more flexible mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships, have facilitated public acceptance. Despite the renovation of the infrastructure, the modernization of the water sector has failed to address persistent water management problems, namely the discriminatory treatment of low income residents, the chaotic expansion of the metropolitan area and the risk of future water shortages.

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