South America is the region where 33% of global water resources are located. Certainly enough to supply its 422 million inhabitants with this elixir of life.
But hardly any other resource is as unequally distributed, controversial and badly managed as that of water. Economic interests often stand in conflict with public welfare interests. Conflicts over the use of water are the rule, not the exception. Politics seldom performs a constructive part, that of being committed to the common good.
For many people, dams are considered "clean energy". But in the Amazon region they lead to violent conflicts with drastic consequences for nature and the local population. We tell of the conflicts surrounding the flagship projects Belo Monte and Jirau/Samuel in Brazil.
How and why it is so problematic to protect a river in its entirety, and what its destruction means for whole regions, we report in our video coverage of the Rio Pardo in Brazil.
In the northeast of Brazil it often doesn't rain for years. Thanks to a few simple skills, its small hold farmers have learned to live with the drought. But because the agro-industry is eyeing huge areas of land in this region, Brazil's government has embarked on the adventure of redirecting the river. How the government went about it, we outline in the report on the emblematic São Francisco.
One speaks of water grabbing when companies or wealthy private individuals claim water in the name of progress and export earnings. However, local residents are then denied access to water and environmental protection areas are threatened. We cover this in our report on the Esteros de Iberá in Argentina.
In the Peruvian Andean Highlands there is sometimes too little or sometimes too much water - namely when climate change causes the glaciers to melt. There are well-intentioned technical solutions from development organizations, but they appear to have done the math without taking into account the mindset of the indigenous highland population.
In some places there is a natural lack of water, such as in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. There, the ‘fog catchers’ have employed a resourceful and cheap method of capturing moisture for irrigation, but politicians in faraway Santiago are not very enthusiastic about it.