Skip to content

NEWS: Demands to nationalize Chile’s water rights gain momentum


Camilo Escalona

The Santiago Times reports that the President of the Chilean Senate – who is also a member of the Socialist Party opposition in that country – “has called upon (right-wing) President Sebastián Piñera to nationalize the country’s water rights in order to recuperate its natural resources.”

The article highlights, “Camilo Escalona said small farmers whose crops had depleted due to the lack of water should be given more water rights to help sustain their livelihood…”

The vice-president of the Senate, Alejandro Navarro Brain, who is with the ‘Movimiento Amplio Social’ party, agrees with Escalona.

And, “Party for Democracy Deputy Cristina Girardi (also agrees with this position and says), ‘The water issue has caused a stir due to the drought and scarcity of the resource… We must face the problem as a country.'” Girardi is the former head of the Chilean Congress.

While agreeing in principle, “Juan Pablo Orrego, president of Ecosistemas, an environmental NGO in Chile, said he favors giving (water rights) to the municipalities (rather than to the state)…’because you would need to change the constitution, the water code, and on top of that taking the rights from the big companies would be challenging’…”

A diverse multi-party (transversal) grouping within the Chilean parliament is now setting a political agenda for the coming year, which includes advocating for reforms to the water law, and possibly the creation of a permanent commission on water, as well as support for a Peoples’ Summit on Water.

For more on the ‘Bancada Transversal Por El Agua Inicia Trabajo Analizando Propiedad Y Escasez Del Recurso Hidrico En Pais’, http://www.camara.cl/prensa/noticias_detalle.aspx?prmid=48818. Updates on the water commission can be found on the parliamentary website at ojoconelparlamento.cl.

In April 2011, the Council of Canadians released an English-language version of the report ‘Conflicts Over Water in Chile: Between Human Rights and Market Rules’, edited by Sara Larrain and Colombina Schaeffer of the Chilean non-governmental organization, Chile Sustentable, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=6411.

The next presidential election in Chile takes place November 17, 2013.