Multi-Institutional Experiments in the Participatory Management of Urban Rivers in Amazonian Brazil: The Case of the Mata Fome River Basin of Belem, Pará

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"The freshwater resources of the Amazon basin are immense. Despite their magnitude, the quality of Amazonian water resources is threatened by a number of land use changes, including mining, deforestation and especially urbanization. Impacts on water resources resulting from urbanization are especially problematic and constitute one of the major environmental problems affecting the region, and one of the most complicated and costly to resolve. In recent years international lending organizations are developing partnerships with state and municipal governments to implement projects to address these problems. Many of these initiatives include the development of new institutional arrangements which involve local community participation in the design and execution of the projects. This paper analyzes the experience of one such project involving the city of Belém. "Belém, the largest city in the Amazon basin, is located on the southern margin of the Amazon estuary in an area dominated by tidal basins. Expansion of the city concentrated at first on the higher elevations. In recent years, the tidal lowlands, known as 'baixadas,' have been occupied, frequently through organized land invasions supported by urban politicians. This spontaneous settement, was not accompanied by the development of the necessary urban infrastructure, such as, water runoff control and sewers, or concern for the conservation of the original landscape. The result, as a report of the Urban Management program for Latin America and the Caribbean (1999), noted that public efforts thus far had transformed 'sewage rivers' into 'sewage ditches.' "To address the problems caused by this uncontrolled development, a multi-institutional program for management of urban rivers was designed to implement management plans for selected urban river basins which attempt to reconcile ecological, social and economic uses of local water resources. This multi-instiututional project is coordinated by the UN program in collaboration with the municipal government, and seeks to empower communities for the participatory management of local stream basins. In this paper I will analyze interactions between an international development agency (UN), the municipal government of Belém, and local community associations within the context of the developing federal water resources legislation. A special focus of the paper is on role of community organizations in the implementation of the project."
IASC, common pool resources, water resources, river basins, urbanization, foreign aid, institutional analysis, participatory management, environmental degradation