Water Forum Sounds Alarm Over Government-Proposed 'Water Resources Law'
[The analysis below is from Salvadoran social movement organization Nosotros y Nosotras. Reprinted and translated with permission.]
Last week, anticipating approval of the government-proposed "Water Resources Law" by an ad-hoc committee made up of mostly New Ideas party legislators, the Foro del Agua (Water Forum) sounded the alarm once again that the bill institutionalizes water injustice by authorizing mechanisms to essentially steal and monopolize water use throughout the country by members of the oligarchy and their large corporations.
Among these mechanisms of monopolization are:
- Agreements between ANDA (El Salvador's national water administration) and oligarchic families within the construction industry, to whom concessions of water will be granted for urban projects. These include the Dueñas and Poma families behind the widely opposed Valle El Ángel megaproject, who have been unconstitutionally allocated more than 25 million liters of water per day. This will create water shortages in the impoverished surrounding populations
- Illegal exploitation of surface and underground water in coastal territories by the sugar agro-industry, headed by the Regalado Family, who pay a pittance for the use of water
- Fifteen-year permits for the use of water will be granted to construction companies, while communal and non-profit water boards--which supply almost 1.5 million people with water throughout the country--will be forced to pay a water fee and renew permits every 5 years
The law also deepens inequalities by prioritizing the industrial use of water over the population's right to domestic use and consumption, in addition to eliminating criteria to obtain environmental permits for the use of water.
The law creates a bureaucratic, vertical, and centralized institutional framework by denying citizen participation and not recognizing the Basin Committees and Water Boards.
The Water Forum highlights that although the Lempa River, the most important strategic aquifer reserve in the country, is in crisis, the law does not grant a dedicated administration board for this river; and it does not address the Water Planning System in detail.
All of the above indicates that the consultation process carried out by the ad-hoc committee only responded to the government's strategy to accumulate political capital and not to incorporate the needs and proposals of social movements and community in the drafting of the law.
The Water Forum insists, again, that whatever law is approved must be one that is an instrument to fight water injustice, theft, and dispossession throughout the country.