JACOBI, Pedro R.1 EDUARTE, Marina2 MONTEIRO, Fernando2 NOVAES, Ricardo2 ROMAGNOLI, Reynaldo2
1 Associate Professor at School of Education and School of Environmental Science of University of Sao Paulo
2 Graduate Student at School of Environmental Science of University of Sao Paulo.
The reforms of the water management system in Brazil, especially in the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Area and the Paraiba’s River Valley are analyzed as cases of an institutional transition towards a "hydro-policy", in which are build, sometimes in a controversial way, the conditions for new institutional spheres, changing the relationship between experts and laymen, technicians and users, and the public and private sector.
The Sao Paulo Metropolitan Area (SPMA), in Brazil, has a population of nearly 18 million people. The thirty-four municipalities located in this area have faced a steady population growth during the 1960´s and 1970´s, with a growth rate of 5.44% per year. In the 1990´s these figures dropped to a still high 1.4% per year. Alongside demographic growth, other socio-economic problems have arisen. In 2000, the average per capita income of this population was of US$ 240.00/month, illiteracy rate was 8.3% and life expectancy was of 63 years (FUSP, 2001). To put it simple, the chaotic growth of the SPMA imposes severe stress to its inhabitants, deep impacts on the environment, and enormous challenges to policy makers.
The Paraíba’s River Valley is located between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The region turned into a huge corridor that connects the two largest cities of Brazil – a condition that has brought to it enormous economic growth. However, this progress came at a high price: today, it is one of the most devastated regions in the country. The water basin faces serious problems concerning the quantity and the quality of its water, problems that arise from urbanization processes and intensive agricultural practices, which lead to the obstruction and pollution of rivers and creeks in the region. At the institutional level, this situation becomes even grimmer by the dispute between water users from the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which involves even the Federal Government, since the Paraiba River is the main water supply source of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The still fast demographic growth pace of these areas, their characteristics of low territorial planning, and the negative effects derived from the high concentration of industrial settlements lead to a series of very distinctive problems, such as the severe contamination of the waterways, high occurrence of floods, erosion problems, occupation of lowlands, a growing pressure over the water resources available for public supply, difficulties in protecting springs, limited water availability, and conflicts between regions over the use of the water.
To cope with these challenges, engineering efforts surely must be made, but it is in the institutional domain where real changes must take place, and they are already happening. In Brazil, water management has been both sectored (with water quality separated from water supply) and centralized (at national and state levels). First implemented in the State of Sao Paulo, a series of state level reforms occurred in the 1990s, and a federal bill passed in 1997.