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The right to water struggle continues in El Salvador

Karunananthan and Spronk march with 5,000 people for water justice in San Salvador, March 20, 2014.

Karunananthan and Spronk march with 5,000 people for water justice in San Salvador, March 20, 2014.

The Blue Planet Project has supported the call for the right to water to be recognized in El Salvador.

Unfortunately, IPS reports, “On October 30, right-wing lawmakers blocked the single-chamber legislature from ratifying a previously approved reform to article 69 of the constitution, which granted the right to water and food the status of a human right, thus forcing the state to guarantee universal access.”

“The aim of the constitutional amendment was to make sure that the state gave top priority to the use of water by the population rather than to economic interests… The reform established that it was the obligation of the state to use and preserve water resources and ensure access for the population. That commitment required public policies and laws to regulate the sector. …The amendment was approved in April 2012 by 81 of 84 lawmakers, right at the end of the three-year legislative period. …But the legislators of the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN) and Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) [have now] refused to ratify the constitutional reform.”

The IPS article highlights the constitutional reforms must be approved during one legislative period and ratified with two-thirds of the vote in the following term. That means the legislature must ratify the right to water amendment by May 2015.

In early October there was another setback to the right to water struggle in El Salvador. A general law on water was to include the creation of a new regulatory agency under the Ministry of Environment. But, as IPS reports, “on October 7, legislators from the PCN, ARENA and the Great National Alliance (GANA) introduced a change [that meant] Conagua [the proposed regulatory agency] would be controlled by a new autonomous body [rather than the environment ministry], with the participation of five business chambers and two state agencies. …The governing left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the Environment Ministry say they will revoke that modification during the legislature’re plenary debate of the bill.”

In May 2013, Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan attended a conference in San Salvador. She wrote, “At the forefront of this conference is the struggle for the recognition of the right to water being debated in congress at the moment where right-wing parties are pulling all stops to block it.”

Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow’s paper, ‘Our Right to Water: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation’ can be read in Spanish here. Early in the new year, the Blue Planet Project will be releasing a companion report on the right to water struggle in El Salvador authored by Karunananthan and University of Ottawa professor Susan Spronk.

In March, Karunananthan and Spronk participated in a march with thousands of people to the legislative assembly in San Salvador to, as reported earlier this month in the Guardian, “demand that those inside revive stalled negotiations on a long-debated general water law which would, among other things, establish a hierarchy of use and prioritise water for human consumption over that for industry or commerce.” It was during this visit that Karunananthan and Spronk collected information and conducted numerous interviews for their report.

Further reading
El Salvador mining ban could establish a vital water security precedent (June 2013 op-ed by Meera Karunananthan)
Right to water bill moves forward in El Salvador (April 2012 blog)
Right to water bill debate expected in El Salvador by year end (October 2011 blog)