Speaker: Maryann Cairns, Human Dimensions of Tidal Energy Postdoctoral Candidate
Title: Environment, Rights, and Waste in Bolivia: Water and Sanitation Technology in Practice
Date: Wednesday, May 7thTime: 1:00-1:30pm
Location: SMEA/MAR 268
Abstract for talk:
US-based nongovernmental organizations have collaborated with local communities in rural Bolivia to implement complex water, sanitation, and wastewater treatment (WatSan) technologies. These systems respond to locals’ need for improved access to water and sanitation. However, the burdens and benefits of this development process are unequally shared amongst community members. Cairns’ work builds on concepts of political ecology, human rights, and critical development to evaluate the human impact of WatSan infrastructure placement. Cairns focuses on specific problems that arose in the implementation and maintenance of sewage and wastewater treatment infrastructure in Alto Beni, Bolivia, to illustrate the ways in which enviro-social systems change in response to new technologies. These sanitation systems, which reach only approximately 75% of the larger community, are both inequitably designed and difficult to manage effectively. As a result of partial system failure, concerns about pollution, environmental justice, and infrastructural appropriateness arise. Cairns addresses the ways in which pre-implementation research and focus on appropriate, culturally relevant technologies can begin to ameliorate human-infrastructure concerns in WatSan development.
Maryann Cairns is a Doctoral Candidate in Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida. Her dissertation project focuses on the impacts of U.S.-led water and sanitation (WatSan) technology development in rural Bolivia, with specific focus on community-level systems that include wastewater treatment. Her dissertation research was funded as part of the NSF grant entitled “Sustainable Water Management Research Experience in Bolivia: Influence of a Dynamic World on Technological and Societal Solutions.” Her ongoing work focuses on water-energy infrastructure development in Belize, and wastewater irrigation systems and nutrient management in Bolivia.