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

Environmentalists Demand the Ratification of the Anti-Mining Law

Press Conference: 1st Anniversary of the Prohibition of Metal Mining
March 4, 2018, San Salvador

On the 1st anniversary of the prohibition of metallic mining in El Salvador
environmentalists demand that the new Legislative Assembly continue
to reinforce and strengthen the law.

On March 4th, El Salvador voted overwhelmingly right-wing in its local government and legislative assembly, this means that many of the initiatives and laws, like the anti-metallic mining law victoriously won last year could be daily overturned.

Many of the new legislative assembly member are pro-mining, some to the degree of being associated with mining tycoons. These activists, demand that the law not be overturned, ignored or slowly taken apart. The civil society also called on the Catholic church to recommit their support in the face of this apparent threat.

The groups propose that the anti-mining law previously decided upon during the last administration to be ratified, or uphold, in order to ensure the environmental sustainability of El Salvador. They also continue to demand the consideration and ratification of the laws guaranteeing the right to Water and Food Security.

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News Highlights, romero

SAN ROMERO: Ayer, Hoy y Siempre

SAINT ROMERO: Yesterday, Today and Forever

web3-oscar-romero-procession-march-el-salvador-000_was7371671-jose-cabezas-afpOn this date, 38 years ago, the Archbishop of El Salvador was assassinated while giving mass in his own chapel by right wing forces opposed to the people’s revolution of the 1980s. Romero was not a subversive, nor a communist, but one of the greatest examples of a Christian that one can be. READ MORE.

Every year, on and around this date, thousands of Salvadorans and thousands throughout the world commemorate his martyrdom with marches, special masses and prayer ceremonies. Young children are taught about him while the elderly reminisce about his radios sermons that would be transmitted via short and long wave frequencies. His voice and his words helped multitudes during and after the bloody civil war in El Salvador heal and keep moving onward towards the peace that they and he aspired for.

He is, indeed, the World’s Saint and today we commemorate his fierce love amidst times of great hate.

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“Sabemos que todo esfuerzo por mejorar una sociedad, sobre todo cuando está tan metida esa injusticia y el pecado, es un esfuerzo que Dios bendice, que Dios quiere, que Dios nos exige.”
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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The Board

The Board Speaks

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Voices has two full-time staff in country which means we regularly rely on the strength and direction of our Board of Directors to ensure we’re doing what’s right and doing it right. Our current Board of Directors is full of amazing folks, many whom have been with Voices since the 1980’s, and others who have watched it grow.  What’s clear is that these histories have created strong connections and bonds with our communities and partners making our jobs on the ground easier and more impactful.  This June, our Board and field staff met in Maryland’s beautiful lakeside to reconnect, to share, to learn, to inspire and be inspired, and recommit to the work at hand.

Below is a collection of short interviews taken at the close of this year’s meeting. 

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agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Cabanas, Climate Change, Corruption, Disasters, Economy, El Salvador Government, Environment, Food Security, International Relations, Mining, Politics, Public Health

A Historical Vote for Environmental Justice

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Versión Español

March 29th, 2017

Despite a short 72 hour notice, some three hundred people from across the country, descended on the courtyard of the Legislative Assembly in San Salvador to be be present during one of the most historical votes in the counter’s recent history. Today was the result of a persistent movement led by communities, national and international environmental organizations, universities, politicians, lawyers, scientists, health professions and most recently, even the Pope himself, recently joined the cause.

According to the UN, El Salvador has the second highest degree of environmental deterioration in the Americas, with only 3% of intact natural forests, soils ruined by inadequate agricultural practices and more than 90% of contaminated surface waters. A recent study by the Central American University José Simeón Cañas (UCA) revealed that 90% of the population demands that the Government take immediate measures to prohibit this putrid industry.

Today was not only a victory for the Anti-Mining activists but it also gave a glimpse of hope that the Water Rights Act, another overdue, essential bill could finally be put before the same assembly and passed. Both laws go hand in hand in the protection of the most basic and important human right of Salvadorans; the right to a dignified and healthy life.

Read the Press Release


Un Voto Histórico para la Justicia Ambiental

Marzo 29, 2017

A pesar de un breve aviso de 72 horas, unas trescientas personas, representado varios regiones del país descendieron al patio de la Asamblea Legislativa en San Salvador para estar presentes durante uno de los votos más trascendentales de la historia reciente del país. Hoy en día, fue el resultado de un movimiento persistente liderado por comunidades, organizaciones ambientales nacionales e internacionales, universidades, políticos, abogados, científicos, profesiones de la salud y más recientemente, incluso el Papa mismo , se unió a la causa.

Según la ONU, El Salvador tiene el segundo mayor grado de deterioro ambiental en las Américas, con sólo el 3% de bosques naturales intactos, los suelos son arruinados por prácticas agrícolas inadecuadas y más del 90% de las aguas superficiales son contaminadas. Un reciente estudio de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA) reveló que el 90% de la población exige que el Gobierno tome medidas inmediatas para prohibir esta industria pútrida.

Hoy, no sólo fue una victoria para los activistas antiminerales, sino que también dio un vistazo a la esperanza de que la Ley del Agua, otro proyecto imprescindible y atrasado, podría finalmente ser sometido a la misma asamblea y aprobado. Ambas leyes van de la mano en la protección del derecho humano más básico e importante de los salvadoreños; El derecho a una vida digna y sana.

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agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, Corruption, Economy, Environment

The Water Crisis in El Salvador

Versión Español

On 28 July 2010, through resolution 64/292, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the human right to water and sanitation, reaffirming that water is essential for the realization of all human rights; however, for a significant proportion of humanity this is not true. The Friends of the Earth International Federation (FoEI) says that over 1 billion people lack clean water and more than 5 million die each year from water-related diseases.

El Salvador is one of the countries in the world facing a profound water crisis. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reports that El Salvador has 1,752 cubic meters per capita per year, which almost qualifies as “water stress.” This serious lack of water is related to deforestation and to the contamination of surface water bodies. According to the Salvadoran Ministry of Environment: more than 90% of surface waters are contaminated and only 10% are suitable for drinking by conventional methods.

In the opinion of the Office of the Procurator for the Defense of Human Rights, this situation of pollution and environmental degradation represents an accumulated evil throughout history that was deepened by the lack of diligence of the authorities, relegating the environmental issue of all State policies. For this reason, in 2006, a group of social organizations submitted a proposal for a General Water Law, which explained that the existing legal framework was obsolete and fragmented and couldn’t provide the population with resolutions. The law was based on principles such as: participation, full access, a focus on basins, sustainability and decentralization.

According to Carolina Amaya, environmental activist with the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), the main reason for not approving the General Water Law is because the right-wing business leaders represented in the Legislative Assembly, intend to control the water issue, they want to control the institutions that privatize water. This breaking point is the main motive that has interrupted the discussion of the law. In Amaya’s words, “allowing large private enterprises to have control over water management is like putting the coyote in the care of hens.”

This lack of regulation allows golf course owners, bottling companies, sugarcane producers, and other private interests to use as much water as they want, no matter how it affects local communities. One media outlet reported that a golf course has all the water it needs while nearby towns struggle to meet their daily needs. Likewise, residents of the Bajo Lempa region of Usulutan argue that sugarcane producers are depleting their water sources.

These social sectors that hold economic and political power say that water is a commodity that is bought and sold, and the only way to manage it efficiently is to let the market take over. This neoliberal thinking is rejected by various civil society organizations arguing that water is a common good and its access is a basic human right.

Conflicting visions often manifested in street closures for protests of lack of water, while companies engaged in the production of carbonated and alcoholic beverages using millions of liters a day, equally large shopping malls and exclusive residences use excessive amounts of water without any restriction. The bottom line; unequal access to potable water is a clear indicator of social injustice in El Salvador.

Crisis de Agua en El Salvador

El 28 de julio de 2010, a través de la Resolución 64/292, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas reconoció el derecho humano al agua y al saneamiento, reafirmando que el agua es esencial para la realización de todos los derechos humanos; sin embargo, para una importante proporción de la humanidad este derecho no se cumple. La Federación Amigos de la Tierra Internacional afirma que más de mil millones de personas carecen de agua limpia y que más de 5 millones fallecen cada año por enfermedades relacionadas con el agua.

El Salvador es uno de los países del mundo que enfrenta una profunda crisis hídrica, la CEPAL reporta que el país cuenta con 1,752 metros cúbicos per cápita por año, y lo califica en una situación cercana a lo que se conoce como stress hídrico. Esta escasez tiene que ver con la deforestación y con la contaminación de los cuerpos superficiales de agua, el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente salvadoreño afirma que más del 90% de las aguas superficiales se encuentran contaminadas y que únicamente el 10% son aptas para potabilizar por métodos convencionales.

En opinión de la Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, esta situación de contaminación y degradación ambiental representa un mal acumulado a lo largo de la historia que se fue profundizando por la falta de diligencia de las autoridades, relegando el tema ambiental de todas las políticas estatales. Por esta razón fue que en 2006 un grupo de organizaciones sociales presentaron una propuesta de Ley General de Aguas, explicando que el marco legal existente es obsoleto y fragmentado y no da respuestas a la población, por lo que se requiere una ley basada en principios como: la participación, el pleno acceso, el enfoque de cuenca, la sustentabilidad y la descentralización.

Once años más tarde aún no se cuenta con la referida ley, Para Carolina Amaya, activista ambiental de la Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña, la razón de fondo por la cual no se aprueba la Ley General de Aguas es porque las cúpulas empresariales representadas en la Asamblea Legislativa por los partidos de derecha, pretenden tener el control de la institución rectora del agua, quieren controlar la institucionalidad para luego privatizar el agua, este es el punto de quiebre y principal motivo que ha entrampado la discusión de la ley. En palabras de Amaya, permitir que la gran empresa privada tenga el control en la gestión del agua, es como poner al coyote a cuidar a las gallinas.

Esta falta de regulación permite a los propietarios de campos de golf, compañías embotelladoras, productores de caña de azúcar, y otros intereses privados utilizar toda el agua que quieran, sin importar la forma en que afecta a las comunidades locales. Un medio de comunicación publicó que un campo de golf tiene toda el agua que necesita mientras que las poblaciones cercanas luchan para satisfacer sus necesidades diarias. Del mismo modo, los residentes de la región del Bajo Lempa en Usulután sostienen que los productores de caña de azúcar están agotando las fuentes de agua.

Estos sectores sociales que ostentan poder económico y político sostienen que el agua es una mercancía que se compra y se vende, y la única manera de administrarla eficientemente es dejando que sea el mercado quien se hace cargo. Este pensamiento neoliberal es rechazado por diversas organizaciones de la sociedad civil argumentando que el agua es un bien común y su acceso es un derecho humano básico.

Visiones enfrentadas que se manifiestan con frecuencia en cierres de calles en protesta por la falta de agua, al mismo tiempo las empresas dedicadas a producir bebidas carbonatadas y alcohólicas gastan millones de litros al día, igualmente grandes centros comerciales y residencias exclusivas usan cantidades excesivas de agua sin ninguna restricción. El acceso desigual al agua potable es un indicador claro de la injusticia social en El Salvador.

Advocacy, annual report, education, Environment, Food Security, News Highlights, Voices Developments, Womens issues, Youth Development

Celebrating 30 years of Solidarity with the People of El Salvador – 2016 Annual Report

2016 was a dynamic year for Voices. We said goodbye to old friends and opened the door to new ones. We began an extensive education revitalization project in Bajo Lempa, started supporting women’s empowerment in Morazán and even joined in on environmental justice protests in the capital San Salvador.

This year is even more special because we turn 30! Since our inception in the refugee camps until now, we have never deserted our communities and are committed to being a critical source of support for them now, and in the future.

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Read our report to find out what our partners have been up to, the large scales issues they are facing and how Voices has been working hard in collaboration with leaders to find solutions to issues and pathways to accomplishing goals.