Making Sense of the 2016 San Andres Water Crisis, a Colombian Caribbean Island

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:50
Oral Presentation
Carolina VELASQUEZ, University of Delaware, USA
In October 2015, the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies -IDEAM declared that the El Niño Phenomenon had reached severe conditions, and later, on July 13, 2016, reported conditions of neutrality. One of the affected areas was San Andres, a drought prone Colombian Caribbean island. On April 2, 2016, there were 11 road protests spread throughout the south-center of the island where the Raizales, an ethnic-minority group, and people from poor neighborhoods burned tires, blocked streets, and held up signs saying “We need water.” That was the official beginning of the water crisis, which had by then affected 14.000 people. On April 15, the local Government, for the first time in its history, declared a State of Public Calamity, attributing the causes of the the lack of water to the Niño phenomenon. Although the government established the Niño phenomenon as the only trigger, the ways in which the community framed and understood the water crisis were omitted. Acknowledging the importance of the community voice, this research analyzes the way the San Andres community and institutions made sense of the causes of the water crisis and the factors that made this crisis unique from others. 34 semi-structured interviews were conducted in August 2016 with a variety of stakeholders. The results show officials were more inclined to point out three main causes: 1) The Niño phenomenon, 2) overpopulation, and 3) lack of technology and water storage capacity. On the community side, people mainly pointed out four causes: 1) overpopulation and mass tourism, 2) inadequacy and inequity in the production and distribution of the water resource, 3) degradation of wetlands, and 4) drought. This study helps to expose and understand the complexity of the San Andres water crisis and ultimately contributes to the prevention of repeated or more severe crises.