Perceptions of climate change and water governance vulnerability in the Aysén region of Chile
Author(s)Helman, Michal I
Agricultural and Resource Economics
Latin American Studies
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AbstractWhile the majority of Chile’s intact watersheds are located in the largely uninhabited southern Patagonia regions of the country, the majority of the Chilean population lives in the nation’s parched central regions. In the face of recent trends in climatic change, including dramatic decreases in snowpack, diminishing glaciers, and shifts in precipitation cycles and seasons, mountain contributions to local watersheds are predicted to continue dwindling as aridification worsens around the world and throughout Chile. Problems associated with aridification are further complicated by Chile’s water history, which has largely revolved around the nation’s fresh water caches subject to private claims and ownership under Chile’s privatized water market. This thesis presents an exploratory study of perceptions of climate change impacts that was conducted throughout five villages in the Aysén region of southern Chile. The study draws upon field observations and interviews with 30 agro-pastoralist respondents about their perceptions of climate change impacts in the region, with particular attention to the hydrologic cycle, and how those perceived changes and impacts are affecting their rural livelihoods. Additionally, this research explores what agro-pastoralists’ experiences securing and soliciting water rights in Aysén have been, including perceptions of and suggestions for Chilean water law reform. A thematic analysis of respondents’ narratives yielded themes of helplessness, fear, and perceived benefits. The resulting analysis explores the social and political aspects that are constraining local capacities to prevent, mitigate, and recover from the onset of intensifying climatic changes.