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Politics of inequality in the urban water cycle: experiences from Argentina and Brazil

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Esteban CastroORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Edited Issue.The issue features four articles, three covering topics from Brazil, in Portuguese, and one from Argentina, in Spanish. Article 1 is authored by Suyand Ana Lsituation of unequal access to water and environmental vulnerability more generally in the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region. The article is based on research carried out in Queimados municipality, in the Baixada Fluminense, as part of the NetworkProject (, which was developed between 2013 and 2015. Article 2 was authored by Marcelo Aversa, Vanessa Lucena Empinotti, and Jeroen Johannes Klink, from the Federal University of the ABC in Sao Paulo. It presents a critical discussion of the notion of human right to water adopted by the International System of Human Rights, exposing the contradictions of the concept and of the normative structure behind it, which among other issues simultaneously promotes the human right to water and water privatization as a possible option. The authors also emphasise the contradictions between the privatization-friendly approach to the human right to water promoted by international organizations and national governments and the of Living in Plenitude (Buen Vivir)inspired pioneering constitutional reforms on this issue in Ecuador and Bolivia. Article 3, by Ana Paula Fracalanza and Mariana Gutierres Arteiro da Paz, from the University of Sao Paulo, focuses on the catastrophic water shortages affecting the metropolitan regions of the State of Sao Paulo since 2014. The authors emphasise the contradictions in the urban politics of water and sanitation services, particularly in the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Region, where these services are run on a commercial basis. Among other issues, the article discusses the deepening of the conditions of vulnerability, inequality and injustice affecting the poorer sectors of the population, which according to the authors are caused by the dominant capitalist approach to water management and the lack of implementation of democratic principles and mechanisms enshrined in the 1988 Constitution, such as effective social participation in the control and monitoring of the management of essential services. Article 4 was authored by Ana Nunez, from the National University of Mar del Plata, Argentina, and proposes a critique of prevailing approaches to public-policy analysis using examples from the history of water and sanitation services in Argentina. The author argues that there is a need to transcend what she terms hegemonic academic literature that places emphasis on the techno-bureaucratic and physical aspects of managementgenerated and developed, giving analytical pre-eminence to the study of these policies order grounded on the production and reproduction of social inequalities. The topics covered by the four articles are of the highest relevance. They address problems that are among the key factors accounting for the failure in meeting the 2015 Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation services, and contribute to the ongoing debates about the obstacles and opportunities that we face in relation to the new challenges set by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to universalise the access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Castro JE, Quintslr S, Maiello A, Britto AL, Aversa M, Empinotti VL, Klink JJ, Fracalanza AP, da Paz MG, Núñez A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network Working papers

Year: 2018

Volume: 5

Issue: 3

Pages: 1-105

Print publication date: 01/09/2018

Online publication date: 24/09/2018

Acceptance date: 31/05/2018

Date deposited: 18/07/2019

ISSN (print): 2056-4856

ISSN (electronic): 2056-4864

Publisher: WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network


DOI: 10.5072/zenodo.265283

Notes: Edited Issue. Open access version also available at:


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