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Beyond the Big DitchPolitics, Ecology, and Infrastructure at the Panama Canal$
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Ashley Carse

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028110

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028110.001.0001

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Making the Panama Canal Watershed

Making the Panama Canal Watershed

3 (p.37) Making the Panama Canal Watershed
Beyond the Big Ditch

Ashley Carse

The MIT Press

This chapter examines the history and politics of watershed management around the Panama Canal. It situates the emergence of canal-related water scarcity concerns and the new administrative response—watershed management—within the historical context of the development of forest hydrology science, institutional tensions between civil engineers and foresters around water management, and the global dissemination of “watershed” as a concept. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, the chapter explores the sociopolitical challenges and conflicts around establishing a new administrative watershed region across a space where the Panamanian state had previously pursued development through agriculture. Tensions between canal authorities and rural people have turned on the different ways that environments have been incorporated into transportation and agricultural infrastructures. Using a political ecology approach, the chapter argues that Panamanian forests were transformed into naturalinfrastructure through the organizational work of linking rural landscapes with an engineered system and national and international institutions.

Keywords:   civil engineering, agricultural development, forest hydrology, forestry, natural infrastructure, Panama Canal, political ecology, space, water scarcity, watershed management

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