Congressman Grijalva speaks out for public control of water in El Salvador
The Salvadoran legislature is currently debating several urgent proposals to determine the future of water in El Salvador, including the ratification of a constitutional amendment to define water as a human right and a General Water Law to ensure public control over water resources. However, in recent months, the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and Grand National Alliance (GANA) parties have attempted to alter the proposed law to give the private sector majority control over water management, opening the door to privatization.
On February 4, Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), ranking member of the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, sent a letter to the Environment and Climate Change Commission of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly, supporting the right to water and emphasizing the importance of guaranteeing that “governance of water resources remains under the remit of public authorities…as they are best placed to ensure that decisions affecting access to this vital resource give primacy to the common interest rather than to individual interests.”
Read the full text of the letter in Spanish here – English translation below:
Commission for the Environment and Climate Change National Assembly of El Salvador
Dear Congressmen and Congresswomen: I write to share my interest in the general law on water before your committee. It is encouraging that a broad range of stakeholders in El Salvador have contributed to the new legal framework through the ‘Foro del Agua’ and that much of their input is reflected in the draft bill presented by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources. Water is fundamental to sustaining life and livelihoods. Adequate, reliable and affordable access to clean water is a prerequisite for inclusive economic development. Yet in many parts of El Salvador - a country with the least water available per capita in all of Central America - families still lack adequate access to this vital resource, particularly in rural areas. This reality increases the workload for women, thus deepening gender inequalities.
In addition, local disputes continue to arise over control of water access that often benefits industrial use over community access, exacerbating the crisis for working families. It is of interest to the United States that El Salvador ratify the human right to water and put in place a clear legal framework for equitable and sustainable management of water resources, as the US has an important stake in advancing inclusive development in El Salvador through funding provided by the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact and USAID programming. I welcome news that the Committee on Environment and Climate Change of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly is reviewing draft legislation for the general law on water. This is an important step, but the limited progress made toward committee passage of a bill is concerning.
I am also wary of a regulatory institution which will prioritize private sector decision-making over water resource management. I encourage you to move forward with discussions without delay, taking into account the inclusive process that provided input from the broader public, in order to pass a general law on water that will promote, facilitate, protect and fulfill the human right to water for the Salvadoran population. In particular, I urge you to ensure that governance of water resources remains under the remit of public authorities, as proposed by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, as they are best placed to ensure that decisions affecting access to this vital resource give primacy to the common interest rather than to individual interests. I wish you success as work to provide equitable access to water for all Salvadorans.
Raúl M. Grijalva
Member of Congress