The river and wetlands system of the Bogotá region, in central Colombia, is not a mere geographical setting but forms the very ecological core of the history and memories of Bogotá city and the Cundinamarca department. The Bogotá River, with 375 km, crosses the Bogotá Savanna from north to south, eventually reaching the Magdalena River, the country’s main fluvial artery. The headwater region is located at 3,400 meters above sea level in the Guacheneque Highlands in a páramo socioecosystem. Twelve kilometers downstream, the river begins to receive waste from tanneries and quarries, pesticides and fertilizers, as well as load releases from the sewers of industries and cities, turning it into one of the most contaminated rivers in the world. The riverbed transformation in the floodplain mirrors the rapid urbanization processes of the region, ushered during the 20th Century and still ongoing. In the last decade, public concern over the river’s restoration has put pressure on its headwater region, where socioecological memories of collective conservation practices and public-private water governance schemes currently coexist, producing or increasing both environmental conflicts and collaborations to restore the rivers’ wetlands through different river infrastructures.

PhD researcher: Laura Giraldo Martínez

Currently, collective conservation practices and public-private governance schemes coexist in the Bogotá River headwaters. The actor interactions are based on and foster both collaboration efforts as well as conflicts, in particular as a reaction to expert-based, top-down and ahistorical river interventions. A critical analysis of the historical planning and re-patterning process in Bogotá River’s headwaters is lacking. Public, private, and communitarian initiatives have executed their own river-enlivening practices but with different proposes, clashing with their future visions and blocking the process of recovering socio-ecological river life. Therefore, this research will investigate how river imaginaries (in particular, socioecological memories) differ per actor group, and how these dynamically relate to materialization through technological intervention and governance proposals. The main objective is to analyze the materialization of different socioecological memories in river infrastructures in the Bogotá River headwaters. This research emphasizes the socioecological memory–infrastructure nexus regarding grassroots self-organized initiatives and public-private alliances which trigger new social relations and spatial configuration to support new imaginaries and future-making.