Agua/Aqua, El Salvador Government

The People Say No to the Privatization of Water in El Salvador

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This past week the Salvadoran people led two protests against plans for private corporations to privatize the water of their country. On June 14th, hundreds of students from the National University of El Salvador (UES) -at the bequest of the rector himself- set out at 7:30am to march to the national legislative assembly. That morning, the assembly was holding a plenary session in which right wing representatives and the rich elite were discussing just how they will go about making water a commodity. They men sitting in that room knew exactly that what they were plotting was going against the wishes of the majority of the Salvadoran people.

With the help of three of FMLN representatives, the students peacefully gained access to the steps of the national assembly and intended to request an audience with those handful meeting to discuss the fate of the many. They not only declined but were met with pepper spray and violence.

No apologies were given, in fact, Norman Quijano, the president of the Legislative Assembly, held a press conference where he accused the University’s rector, Roger Arias, of being a terrorist.

This past Saturday, an estimated 10,000 took to the streets for a massive protest where the message was clear “The people say no to the Privatization of water in El Salvador.” This protest began and ended peacefully and included all sectors of Salvadoran society.


VIDEO (en español)

Privatizing is nothing new for the right-wing elite in El Salvador, who have since 1991, privatized the banking system, the telephonic system and pensions. None of these have come with guarantees, transparency or benefits to the Salvadoran poor and working class. It is not an ideology but the evidence: privatization in El Salvador has ruined more than it has built.

To those in control, water privatization is the final step in gaining full economic control and due to past legislative election, unfortunately it may come to fruition, but not without a full resistance from the Salvadoran population who may still have the ability to upset this diabolical decision if the pressure is constant.

READ OUR REPORT ON WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT IN EL SALVADOR

#NoALaPrivatizacionDelAgua

Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, Environment, Food Security, Water/Agua

The Power of Water


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Versión Español

On December 22, 1992, the General Assembly of the United Nations decreed that World Water Day would be held every March 22. This important date it is an opportunity to learn about water and to value its importance in nature and in society.

In countries such as El Salvador, World Water Day is also a date to inspire civil society’s struggle for the human right to water, considering that it is facing a profound water crisis. According to the Environmental Fund of El Salvador (FONAES), El Salvador is the only country in the Central American region that is close to experiencing a situation of water stress, which places it among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean with the lowest availability of water per inhabitant, like Haiti.

The main cause of this crisis is the destruction of the forest and biodiversity; the clearing of wooded areas has been a ruthless and systematic practice. Many places that produced clean water and fresh air are now thick layers of asphalt and concrete. The few forest areas left in El Salvador make up only 1% of the Central American forest.

Another cause of the water crisis is the pollution of the rivers and in general of the sources of surface water. This level of degradation of these sources, both underground and superficial, has to do with historical processes of overexploitation of natural resources for capital accumulation purposes, facilitated by the negligence of the State.

This environmental anarchy has resulted in water currently being a source of conflict because companies and communities dispute the little clean water that remains. Such is the case of the municipality of Nejapa, which has one of the main aquifers in the country and for this reason companies like Coca Cola has set up shop there. According to the researcher and environmental activist Marta Muños, the Coca Cola company extracts 15% of all Nejapa’s water without paying any kind of tax. The saddest part of this case is that while this company commits this abuse, hundreds of families surrounding the factory do not have access to water.

A similar situation occurs with large-scale sugarcane growers on the Salvadoran coast, who install powerful engines to extract exorbitant quantities of water from the subsoil to irrigate large areas of monoculture, while small farmers themselves lack water for their small plots.

This all could change with the approval of a General Water Law, a law that for more than 10 years various civil society organizations have been proposing and demanding, in order to ensure the priority in the use of water is the consumption of the population and not the business of large companies. This conflicting interest has been the apple of discord that has prevented enacting said law. The best evidence of this comes from the president of the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP), who recently said: “The Water Law is dangerous because it violates the rights of companies.”

But in reality, it is about putting things in their order of priority. Under no circumstances should transnational corporations be allowed to appropriate water. Defending water is defending life. Just as the communities of Nejapa are fighting against the transnational Coca Cola company, so to are the communities of Cabañas, opposed to the Pacific Rim mining company.

Apparently, the only limit to the greed of these transnational companies is the resistance of the people and there exists nothing better than water to inspire a rebellion. That is the power of water.



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El Poder del Agua

El 22 de diciembre de 1992, la Asamblea General de Las Naciones Unidas decretó que cada 22 de marzo se celebraría el Día Mundial del Agua, fecha importante porque constituye una oportunidad para aprender sobre el agua y valorar su importancia en la naturaleza y en la sociedad.

En países como El Salvador el Día Mundial del Agua también es una fecha para inspirar la lucha de la sociedad civil por el derecho humano al agua, considerando que se enfrenta una profunda crisis hídrica. Según el Fondo Ambiental de El Salvador, FONAES, es el único país en la región centroamericana que se encuentra cercano a una situación de estrés hídrico, lo que lo sitúa entre los países de Latinoamérica y el Caribe con más baja disponibilidad de agua por habitante.

La principal causa es la destrucción del bosque y la biodiversidad; la tala de zonas boscosas ha sido una práctica despiadada y sistemática, muchos lugares que producían agua limpia y aire fresco ahora son gruesas capas de asfalto y concreto. Las pocas áreas forestales de El Salvador apenas constituye el 1% del bosque centroamericano.

Otra causa de la crisis hídrica es la contaminación de los ríos y en general de las fuentes superficiales de agua. Este nivel de degradación de las fuentes, tanto subterráneas como superficiales, tiene que ver con procesos históricos de sobreexplotación de los recursos naturales con fines de acumulación de capital, facilitados por la negligencia del Estado.

Esta anarquía ambiental ha resultado en que en la actualidad el agua sea fuente de conflicto, porque la poca agua existente la disputan las empresas y las comunidades, tal es el caso del municipio de Nejapa que posee uno de los principales acuíferos del país y que por esta razón empresas como la Coca Cola se ha instalado en el lugar, según la investigadora y activista ambiental Marta Muños la empresa Coca Cola extrae el 15% de toda el agua del municipio, sin pagar ningún tipo de impuesto, lo más triste de este caso es que mientras dicha empresa comete este abuso, cientos de familias aledañas a la fabrica, no tienen acceso al agua.

Similar situación ocurre con los cultivadores de caña de azúcar en la costa salvadoreña, que instalan potentes motores para extraer del subsuelo cantidades exorbitantes de agua para riego de grandes extensiones del monocultivo, al mismo tiempo que los agricultores carecen de agua para sus pequeñas parcelas.

Esta realidad podría ser diferente de aprobarse una Ley General de Agua que por más de 10 años diversas organizaciones de la sociedad civil han venido proponiendo y exigiendo, una ley que asegure que la prioridad en el uso del agua sea el consumo de la población y no el negocio de las grandes empresas, este interés contrapuesto ha sido la manzana de la discordia que ha impedido promulgar dicha ley. La mejor evidencia es que recientemente el presidente de la Asociación Nacional de la Empresa Privada, ANEP expresó: “La Ley de Agua es peligrosa porque atenta contra los derechos de las empresas”.

Pero en realidad de lo que se trata es de poner las cosas en su orden de prioridad. bajo ninguna circunstancia se debe permitir que las empresas transnacionales se apropien del agua, defender el agua es defender la vida. Así como lo está haciendo la comunidad de Nejapa luchando contra la transnacional Coca cola, o como lo hicieron las comunidades de Cabañas oponiéndose a la minera Pacific Rim.

Al parecer, el único límite a la codicia de estas empresas transnacionales es la resistencia de los pueblos y nada mejor que el agua para inspirar la rebeldía… Ese es el poder del agua.

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