‘Peri-urban Participation in Urban Watershed Management in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo, Brazil’
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This research paper explores the power transformations that have been and are occurring with the reconstruction of water management from traditional political scales to the watershed scale, and with the production of new institutional arrangements to control decision-making about water in São Paulo. In particular, I question: who has (or does not have) access to these new political spaces and what are the implications for the redistribution of power over water decision-making across geographic scales? I have attempted to answer these questions based on an exploratory case study of the Pinheiros-Pirapora Watershed Subcommittee (SCBH-PP), part of the RMSP watershed management framework that has been based on a model of deliberative democracy between representatives of ‘stakeholder’ groups for over a decade. As it is a legislated institution with decision-making powers, rather than solely forming a consultative body, and it is considerably more progressive through its inclusion of a wider group of stakeholders, the RMSP framework is an appropriate case from which to explore the effects of scale in participatory watershed management, particularly in terms of redistributing power between urban and peri-urban scales. An embedded case study of a highly polemic water conflict in a marginalized peri-urban town will highlight issues of representation and scale that limit the inclusivity and effectiveness of the watershed committee. The similarity of the RMSP socioeconomic geography to other metropolitan areas in Latin America (Aguilar and Ward 2003) means the exploratory nature of this research can uncover wider lessons or considerations that may be relevant to understanding dynamics within other participatory urban institutions in the region.