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

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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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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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Advocacy, Agua/Aqua, Food Security, Water/Agua

The Human Right to Water in El Salvador (excerpt)

Versión Español

In El Salvador, environmental activists, natural resource protectors and lawmakers are still celebrating the historical victory of the Anti-Mining law which bans “prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador.”1

Parallel to this victory, a new old fight continues.

El Salvador has, in fact, enough water for its people, however a water crisis is rising from unethical and incompetent management of resources. This is evident in the distribution when we see exclusive residential areas, resorts, mono-cropping farms receive water while mountain towns situated along flowing clean rivers do not.2

Though the organized fight for the right to water began over a decade ago, civil society with the support of international solidarity and major religions have come together to intensify the demand to pass the bill, originally drafted in 2005, which has been since updated and since challenged by right-wing parties and the private business sector.

These affected communities themselves are developing their own water committees and receiving specialized training in the collection, storage and distribution of their own communal and household systems. As a proud member of MOVIAC, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations, we support strengthening these leaders capacities and promote healthy, just and sustainable social changes.

Voices have been tasked to investigate an important topic facing the communities we serve and we have chosen the life and death subject on the right to water in order to spread awareness and forge solidarity. This report is close to completion however we are releasing this excerpt due to the current climate of popular movements and political decisions.

The Human Right to Water in El Salvador   (excerpt) :
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Únete a la Marcha! + Join the March!FB event cover photo

El Derecho Humano al Agua en El Salvador   (extracto)

En El Salvador, activistas ambientales, protectores del agua y legisladores siguen celebrando el histórico triunfo de la ley antiminas que prohíbe “la prospección, exploración, explotación, extracción o procesamiento de minerales metálicos en El Salvador.”1

Paralelamente a esta victoria, una nueva / antigua pelea continúa.

El Salvador tiene, de hecho, suficiente agua para su gente, sin embargo una crisis del agua está levantando de la administración antiética e incompetente de recursos. Esto es evidente en la distribución cuando vemos zonas residenciales exclusivas, complejos, granjas monoculturales reciben agua mientras que los pueblos de montaña situados a lo largo de ríos que fluyen limpios no lo hacen.2

Aunque la lucha organizada por el derecho al agua comenzó hace más de una década, la sociedad civil con el apoyo de la solidaridad internacional y de las principales religiones se han unido para intensificar la demanda de aprobar el proyecto, redactado originalmente en 2005, desafiado por los partidos de derecha y el sector empresarial privado desde el inicio.

Estas mismas comunidades afectadas están desarrollando sus propios comités de agua y recibiendo capacitación especializada en la recolección, almacenamiento y distribución de sus propios sistemas comunitarios y domésticos. Como miembro orgulloso de MOVIAC, el Movimiento de las Víctimas Afectadas por el Cambio Climático y las Corporaciones, nosotros como Voces apoyamos el fortalecimiento de estas capacidades de líderes y promover cambios sociales saludables, justos y sostenibles.

Voces ha sido encargado de investigar un tema importante que enfrentan las comunidades a las que servimos y hemos elegido el tema del agua porque es un asunto de vida y muerte también para difundir la conciencia y forjar la solidaridad. Este informe está a punto de finalizar, sin embargo estamos publicando este fragmento debido al clima actual de movimientos populares y decisiones políticas.

El Derecho Humano al Agua en El Salvador   (extracto):
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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.

Environment

El Salvador and Water: Chaos Reigns

 

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Do not sell water, take care of it and defend it

El Salvador is facing a water crisis. Government officials say it’s due to a climate change-induced drought. We recently argued on this blog that the crisis is the result of unregulated development on fragile aquifer recharge zones. While these are serious problems, the bigger issue for the water crisis is that no one entity is responsible for managing water resources and ensuring they are used in a sustainable manner.

In the absence of water management, chaos reigns. The National Association of Aqueducts and Sewage (ANDA) provides water to 40% of the population. Another 40% of the population depends on no fewer than 2,366 local water boards (that’s 2,366 water boards in just 262 municipalities). The rest rely on private for-profit companies, wells, and other sources. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture is supposed to regulate irrigation; while the Ministry of the Environment protects recharge zones, rivers and lakes; and the Ministry of Health makes sure water is clean. This patchwork system fails because government agencies do not fulfill their roles and no single entity is responsible.

The ensuing chaos and lack of oversight allows golf courses, bottling companies, sugarcane growers, and other private interests to use all the water they want, no matter how it affects local communities. One golf course mentioned in the news a couple weeks ago has all the water it needs while 75% of the nearby populations struggle to satisfy their daily needs. Similarly, residents of the Bajo Lempa region of Usulután report that sugarcane growers use so much ground water for irrigation that their wells are no longer deep enough and they don’t have enough water for their small farms.

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The right to water as a common good

Since the early 1990s and the implementation of neoliberal economic policies, Salvadorans have struggled over two competing visions for water management. Civil society organizations and communities argue that water is a common good and access is a basic human right. Accordingly, the government should protect water resources and ensure that all people have what they need to live healthy, productive lives. Business interests and conservative politicians argue that water is a commodity to be bought and sold, and the only way to satisfy demand to privatize and let the markets take over. These competing visions are not unique to El Salvador. The United States, Bolivia, India, and other countries around the world have struggled, at times violently, over whether water is a right or a commodity.

Civil society organizations have organized protests and marches, created an advocacy coalition (the Water Forum), and drafted legislation that recognizes water as a basic human right and regulates its use. The government and private actors have taken loans from the Inter-American Development Bank to facilitate privatized use of water, and drafted a law of their own. So far, the government has done nothing, forcing communities to take care of their own needs and allowing private interests to use all the water they want.

The one positive development is the 2,366 local water boards that provide services to communities that would otherwise go without. One example of a local board is the Association of Water Users in the Rural Areas of Tonacatepeque (ABAZORTO), which serves 1,700 families on the outskirts of San Salvador. In addition to providing water, ABAZORTO protects aquifer recharge areas with reforestation and conservation activities, and promotes sustainable agriculture. ABAZORTO has a model garden with 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables where they teach local farmers how to grow without using harmful agrochemicals that pollute rivers, streams, and groundwater. They also have a team of promoters that goes door-to-door and holds workshops in schools to teach the community about water management. ABAZORTO and other water boards are doing what the Legislative Assembly and Central Government are failing to do – managing water resources in a sustainable manner. But they cannot do it alone.

This week the President of ANDA and a block of FMLN legislators requested that the Legislative Assembly declare local water boards to be a social interest and exempt them from State fees leveed for water use. They also asked the Assembly to forgive outstanding debts water boards have for past use. This kind of support is an important part of water management, but it does nothing to stop private interests from exploiting the country’s water resources. The only way to accomplish that is by passing the General Water Law that the Water Forum proposed in 2005. The law would recognize water as a right, require sustainable management of water resources and recharge zones, and regulate private, for-profit use of water.

Environmental activist Carolina Amaya says the Legislative Assembly has not passed the Water Forum’s proposed law because business interests represented by conservative politicians want control over water resources. Their inaction and ongoing lack of water management is defacto privatization, in that private interests continue to use what they want with no oversight or regulation. Until that changes, El Salvador will continue to experience water crisis, no matter how many new pumps or miles of pipes that ANDA adds to the current system.

Climate Change, El Salvador Government, Environment, Mining

MOVIAC Environmental Reflections

This morning, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations (MOVIAC, in Spanish), published a two-page statement in Diario Co Latino on pending environmental issues in El Salvador – the Pacific Rim claim in the World Bank tribunal and the proposed ban on mining, Climate Change and the current economic model, the recent signing of the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant, and the Legislative Assembly’s failure to recognize water as a basic human right. MOVIAC wants the new Sánchez Cerén administration and the Legislative Assembly to be doing way more than they are.

Voices staff translated the MOVIAC statement to English and have attached it below along with the original in Spanish. (We will update this post with a link to the digital copy of today’s Co Latino when it is available.)

English

0925 publicacion Reflexiones ambientales(1)