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Urban Ecology Under Fire: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)

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This paper investigates the critical role of workers to enhance the resilience of water supply
services in cities at war through analyzing the case of Madrid and the Madrid water company
Canales del Lozoya during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). The authors (Santiago Gorostiza, Hug March and David Saurí) argue that securing the protection of vital urban flows mediated through infrastructures is a key objective of cities under attack. They illustrate how ordinary knowledge of the urban geography
of water flows may have important repercussions for the war effort itself.

Published in: Environment
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Urban Ecology Under Fire: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)

  1. 1. “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) Santiago Gorostiza (U.Coimbra), Hug March (IN3, UOC), David Saurí (UAB) Paper published in Antipode (2015), 47(2):360-379, doi:10.1111/anti.12111 “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) 1
  2. 2. WARNING! This paper is not about WATER or about the ENVIRONMENT... “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) It is about the centrality of hidden URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE in enabling urban life And… The importance of DEMOCRATIC CONTROL over infrastructre management and production of knowledge to face moments of CRISIS/STRESS/DISRUPTION. 2
  3. 3. Some context... “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) • Collaborative and interdisciplinary research on historical geography and environmental/infrastructure history • Interest in understanding what can we learn from past crisis/events to shed light on relevant debates around 21st century urban management. E.g: public vs. private management of water GOROSTIZA, Santiago; MARCH, Hug; SAURÍ, David: “Servicing Customers in Revolutionary Times: The Experience of the Collectivized Barcelona Water Company during the Spanish Civil War”, Antipode, 2013, 45 (4), 908-925 3
  4. 4. Premises “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) • Central role of water infrastructure in enabling urban life • In periods of stress/disruption: the modern fetishism of urban infrastructure is challenged. i.e. the hidden becomes apparent • Role of human agency in sustaining and making resilient the complex urban metabolism has been obliterated. We investigate how the water company and its personnel coped with the bombings of the city to avoid major disruptions in the water supply 4 Case study • Canal de Isabel II (1851): State-led initiative • Enabled the expansion of modern Madrid and its Ensanche • 2nd Spanish Republic (1931-1939): Canales del Lozoya • Critical role during the Spanish Civil War
  5. 5. Theoretical framework (1): Political and Hazard Geography Water and WWII London, 1939-1940 Singapour, 1942 Leningrad, 1941-1944 • “Geography serves above all to make war” (Lacoste 1976). 5 “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) • Blocking access to water produce “levels of damage that can overwhelm whole communities or cripple aspects of everyday life” (Hewitt 1997:5) •Environmental infrastructure as a target of war (e.g. capture of the Al-Furat dam by Syrian rebels in 2013) Since Madrid’s terrorist in 2004 the water utility stopped to hand out detailed maps of the water infrastructure
  6. 6. • Analysis of the complex interactions between infrastructure networks, technologies, and urban spaces • Moments of infrastructure failure are “perhaps the most powerful way of really penetrating and problematizing those very normalities of flow and circulation” (Graham 2009a:3). •Politics of well-known urban disruptions (e.g. New Orleans 2005) of more hidden disruptions (e.g. the day-to-day infrastructural in the Global South) Theoretical framework (2): Politics/geography of urban infrastructure networks. Urban Political Ecology. 6 “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
  7. 7. Methodology “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) • Archival primary and secondary written sources: 1. Official Bulletins and annual reports 2. Newspaper library research 3. Graphical sources 4. Political propaganda 5. Military history sources 6. Business management historical sources • Oral sources 7
  8. 8. Outbreak of the war (1936) and Strategic role of regional water infrastructures Figure 1: Madrid region, November 1936. The Lozoya water supply system and military operations. Sources: • The water company undergone reorganization granting the workers significant participation in the management • “critical importance to defense water reservoirs” • Role of workers in managing water restrictions 8 “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
  9. 9. Urban Warfare and Water Supply in the Battle of Madrid Figure 3: City of Madrid, November 1936. Urban military operations and Canales del Lozoya water supply system. • Late 1936, early 1937: Siege of Madrid • Canales del Lozoya contributed to the war effort in several ways: - Repairing damaged infrastructure - Camouflage of critical water infrastructures - Providing knowledge of sewer and water distributions networks: 1. Water disconnections 2. Water infrastructure as a tool of urban warfare 9 “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
  10. 10. Adaptation, Reforms, and defeat (1939) “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) Legacy of the Canales de Lozoya • Remarkable war management (no typhoid fevers, water did not lack) • Several reforms implemented during the Republican management: 1. Unification of water networks (∆ efficiency) 2. Termination of permanent free-of-charge water contracts (∆ efficiency) 3. Rationalization of company structure (∆ efficiency) 4. Suppression of fixed payment for metering use (∆ equity) 10 •After the Battle of Madrid war efforts shifted to other areas •Victory of Franco in 1939 and restructuring of the Canal de Isabel II
  11. 11. Conclusions “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) 1. Importance of organizations and human agency (Hazard Geography) 2. Democratic control over urban infrastructure (Urban Political Ecology) 3. Accumulated knowledge and experience of managers and workers (Labor Geography) 11 Crucial role in enhancing infrastructure resilience under periods of hardship and disturbing events
  12. 12. Lessons to be taken home “Urban Ecology Under Fire”: Water Supply in Madrid During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) • Importance to focus not only on flows but also on infrastructure • Critical role of (hidden) infrastructure in enabling modern urban life • Knowledge of the geography of infrastructure is relevant • Importance of democratic control over key infrastructures: Who controls infrastructure? 12

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