Carlos Hernandez - Contrapunto
Civil society organizations continue to pressure the Legislative Assembly to approve a General Water Law that would benefit the majority of the Salvadoran population.
Representatives of the National Alliance against the Privatization of Water, accompanied by religious and academic leaders, presented, on February 6th, a renewed citizen proposal for a General Water Law at the Legislative Assembly.
These have promoted this initiative for the last 14 years and are working to ensure that the authorities of El Salvador guarantee and safeguard water as a human right. The representatives of the National Alliance against the Privatization of Water work to support the public management of water resources.
The law, first presented in 2006 by the Water Forum of El Salvador, is a comprehensive proposal that calls specific attention to the problems of quality and quantity of water resources, as well as consumption, demand and coverage. The poor quality of service is a problem experienced by semi-urban and rural communities who experience a permanent violation of the human right to water.
Social organizations insist that the private management of water resources, proposed by pro business political parties, does not represent an efficient option and the recent problem of algae in the drinking water in the San Salvador Metropolitan Area (AMSS) was in reality orchestrated by economic groups who want to discredit the idea of public management of water resources in order to justify their privatization.
"Water is a public resource. So, it must be managed by the State with the participation of the citizens. There must be an advisory council made up of 14 people from the agro-industry, agricultural cooperatives, industrial sector, tourism, indigenous groups, students, and regional watershed committees. All of them will have a voice, even if the last decision is made by the Government,” expressed the archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar Alas.
The head of the Salvadoran Catholic Church maintained that with the presentation of this improved legal proposal they marked history, because different sectors of society have managed to unify in defense of water resources.
For her part, Tati Oliva, representative of the “Roque Dalton” University Front, maintained that the government has created a crisis by neglecting to implement the necessary measures to resolve and prevent shortages in the distribution of water resources.
Representatives of civil society organizations, have argued that the national reality of El Salvador is historically plagued with abuses, corruption and theft of the national wealth, and the dispossession of water resources has been committed at the expense of the majority of the population who live in situations of vulnerability. These crimes have been committed even more in rural communities where water scarcity is most evident due to prolonged droughts, product of climate change.
The representatives of the Alliance were received by legislators from diverse political parties, including Marta Evelin Batres from the right-wing party ARENA, and president of the Commission on the Environment and Climate Change. Civil society leaders added that their expectation is that legislators will not make this initiative a partisan proposal.
On March 22, 2012, with the celebration of World Water Day, at the initiative of the then President Mauricio Funes through the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), a preliminary draft of the General Water Law was presented to the Legislative Assembly. The preliminary draft recognized the human right to water and emphasizes a watershed management approach to common goods, but a consensus was never reached at the Environment and Climate Change Commission.
In November 2019, the National Alliance against the Privatization of Water, asked the Legislative Palace to resume the debate on the preliminary draft.
The Commission has now started the discussion of the new bill and to date, seven articles have already been approved. The commission’s president, Evelyn Batres estimates that there could be a favorable decision in August of this year.
Translation: Giada Ferrucci