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Published by Voices on the Border, 2017-10-09 22:05:10

The Human Right to Water in El Salvador

by Voices on the Border

Keywords: El Salvador,water,agua,usa,march,protest,lucha,right,human,humano,derecho

BY JOSÉ ACOSTA
EXECUTIVE director, VOICES ON THE BORDER

with FINANCIAL support FROM


By José Acosta

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE
1.....................Introduction
2.....................Ecological and Socail Importance of Water
2.....................The Hydric Crisis
4.....................Other Impacts and Threaths to Hydric Resources
5.....................Injustice in the Access to Water
6.....................Political Advocacy to Guarantee the Human RIght to Water
9.....................UCA’s Proposal
9.....................MOVIAC’s Proposal
10...................Civic Participation in the Management and Conservation of Water
13...................Conclusion
14...................References

Copyright © 2017 | Voices on the Border
All rights reserved. This report or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any
manner, without the express permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotes
in a book review, and educational use.
Printed in El Salvador
First Edition, 2017
+503 2261–2352
voices@votb.org
www.votb.org


INTRODUCTION This is where citizen participation is key. People
must take action and have a voice in ensuring
This is especially true in our capitalist world in that their government is enacting policies that
which private interests are maneuvering to turn protect access to safe drinking water, ensuring
water into a commodity that can be bought and that those who are unable to pay still have the
sold in the free market. As countries use and water they need to live with dignity. People must
pollute their water resources and destroy the also take an active role in ensuring that water is
ecological systems that replenish water tables, managed in a sustainable way and that the State
the supply of drinking water decreases as takes appropriate action to keep surface and
demand increases. This makes water a very groundwater clean and abundant.
profitable business.
For twenty-five years, under a neoliberal
Water management and policies around the doctrine, the governemnt of El Salvador has
world have already created situations where favored policies that allow private interests, for
millions of people do not have the water they profit, to abuse the country's water. However,
need to lead a healthy and productive life the people have been organizing in multiple
because they can’t afford to. Governments ways; carrying out a process of political advo-
have an important role to play in recognizing cacy in defense of the human right to water.
that access to water is a basic human right as is Presentations of law proposals, marches, public
ensuring that people can enjoy that right. But all debates and diverse communicative actions, are
too often, private interests can influence our just some examples of how civil society mobi-
governments, causing water’s privatization. lizes around this topic.

Life came out of the water. Rivers are the Others have participated in forming community
blood that nourishes the earth, and the cells that water boards that manage and distribute water
think about us are made of water, the tears that resources. And others have gone even further by
weep and the memory that reminds us. protecting local forests and preventing pollution
from surface sources. These different levels of
– Eduardo Galeano participation have been and will continue to be
fundamental for the defense of water and to
declare its access as a human right.

PHOTO: The Water Forum

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 1


ECOLOGICAL & SOCIAL IMPORTANCE OF WATER

Water is vital for the balance of ecosystems; its THE HYDRIC CRISIS
molecular structure allows it to absorb heat
fulfilling an important function as a climate regu- Despite its great importance, water has become
lator. It also has the property of dissolving almost a scarce commodity and the world faces an
all the substances that exist in nature, which unprecedented water crisis. Friends of the Earth,
makes the ecological cycles possible, in addition Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC), states
it supports the metabolism in living beings. The that 20% of the world's population lacks water in
human being, in its fetal state, is made up of minimally satisfactory conditions and 50% of the
90% water. The same percentage can be found in world's population does not have adequate sani-
the brain of an adult person. tary facilities which results in 85% of the
diseases and causes of death in the world being
In addition to its major ecological value, water is associated with contaminated water and the lack
a fundamental asset in almost all areas of life in of access to it.1
society. Water is essential for sanitation and
public health; agriculture, fisheries and any other El Salvador is one of many countries facing a
form of water-based food production; production profound water crisis. The Economic Commission
of hydroelectric and geothermal energy; indus- for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC),
trial and agro-industrial production as well. Water qualifies El Salvador’s current situation as close
as a means of recreation and as a means of to what is known as water stress.2 The Ministry of
transport, are other fundamental uses. Environment and Natural Resources (MARN),
reports that El Salvador is one of the countries
Water had a sacred connotation in almost all with the lowest availability of water per
ancient cultures. From their origins, the inhabitant in Latin America, surpassed only by
Mayans highly valued the importance of water Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
because of its indissoluble relationship with
agriculture, creating through water and corn its An indicator of the water shortage in the country
deepest vision of life. One of the oldest and is the evident reduced river flow, in fact the
venerated deities of Mesoamerica was Tláloc; Institute of Human Rights of the Central
the God of rain and thunder, his role was to American University (IDHUCA), indicates that
favor the coming of the celestial waters, most of the more than 360 rivers of the country
through his helpers the Tlaloque represented have lost between 30% and 70% of their
by the great mountain Gods on whose summits summer flows in the last 25 years.3
seem to form the clouds that announce the rain.

Jade Sculpture of Tláloc

1 ATALC (2016), Informe del Estado del Agua en América Latina y el Caribe, pág. 12
2 CEPAL (2010), La Economía del Cambio Climático, pág. 70
3 Mckenly (2015), La Amenaza de la Minería Metálica en un Mundo con Sed, pág. 9

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 2


Also, the volume of underground aquifers has The level of contamination of the Tomayate river,
declined considerably, MARN recognizes that exemplifies what happens in several of the rivers
some of the country's most important aquifers of the country. According to MARN, in this river,
are already over-exploited, i.e. the extraction domestic wastewater represents 68% of the
rate is much higher than the infiltration recov- discharges and 32% come from industrial waste.
ery rate.4 The main sources of pollution are the dumpings
of sanitary collectors from the prison in La Esper-
The main cause is the destruction of the forest anza prison and a factory that contributes a lot
and biodiversity; logging has been such a by dumping its polluting organic matter as well.9
ruthless and systematic practice, that many
places once producing clean water and fresh air The Titihuapa River, which crosses the states of
are now thick layers of asphalt and concrete. Cabañas and San Vicente, according to com-
The El Espino Finca, the lower strip of the The plaints from the population, receives residual
Balsamic Range, coffee farms located south of waste from a pig farm; despite these complaints,
Santa Ana’s capital city and many other regions the problem continues. Rina Navarrete, Director
of the country with high ecological potential of the Friends Association of San Isidro Cabañas,
have become urbanized, industrial zones or states: "The farm produces more than 13,000
commercial centers. pigs and according to the environmental permits
given by MARN, this one has only been permitted
Although most of the territory has already been a population of 6,500."10 In 2015, MARN confirmed
deforested, this type of practice continues. that the river is contaminated, and lacks enough
In the town of Santo Tomas, residents have oxygen in the water which has caused fish to die.
denounced the logging of at least 40 manzanas of
forest.5 More recently, the residents of San Julián What happened in the San Lorenzo River in May
have reported another massive deforestation of 2016 is another example of how the irresponsi-
30 manzanas in a buffer zone of important water- bility of certain companies has a negative impact
sources.6 Also in San Francisco Menéndez, the on surface freshwater. The Magdalena mill caused
Mayor cut down 120 manzanas of protected the spill of 900,000 gallons of hot molasses
forest, to establish a sugar cane crop.7 directly into the river, seriously damaging the
ecosystem and affecting at least 450 human
Another cause of the water crisis is the con- families.11 Even worse is what happened to the
tamination of the rivers and in general of the San Sebastián river, in the department of La
superficial sources of water. In 2011, MARN Union, which was contaminated by acids and heavy
carried out a study of 123 sites distributed in 55 metals left by the mining of previous decades.
rivers, and found no site with excellent quality,
and also found that the number of sites with When analyzing the situation of the country’s
regular, bad or bad water quality was quite rivers, one can not ignore the Lempa, which is for
high. As far as the use for human activities only many reasons the most important in El Salvador.
one site complied with the regulations for rec- 68% of the country's water resources flow
reational activities; only 26% were able to through its basin; 54% of the population are it’s
irrigate without treatment and only 17% were neighbors and it supplies 151 municipalities with
suitable for use with conventional methods.8 water. 50% of the water consumed in the
Metropolitan Area of San Salvador comes from the
Lempa River.12

4 MARN (2013), Estrategia Nacional de Recursos Hídricos, pág. 6 3
5 Diario Co Latino, Habitantes de Santo Tomás Denuncian Destrucción Medioambiental y Amenazas, 5/19/15
6 La Prensa Gráfica, Denuncian Tala Masiva en San Julián, 5/19/17
7 El Salvador Times, Condenan al Alcalde de San Francisco Menéndez, a pagar $95 mil y reparar daño al medio ambiente
8 MARN (2013), Estrategia Nacional de Recursos Hídricos, pág. 5
9 Ibid
10 Vanguardia, Señalan Impunidad del MARN Ante Contaminación del Río Titihuapa, 7/21/16
11 El Diario de Hoy, Derrame de 900 Mil Galones de Melaza Afecta a Río en Chalchuapa y a Población, 5/6/16
12 Selva Sutter (2011), La Minería Moderna en El Salvador: Perversidad Emblemática de la Mascarada Globalizante, pág. 66

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017


Another important water resource is wetlands, On the other hand, the State recognizes that there
according to MARN, El Salvador has 59 major are deficiencies in distribution. For example, the
wetlands, which comprise 124,133 hectares of National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers
water surface. These are also adversely affected (ANDA) and decentralized operators report losses
by multiple factors including solid waste of 47%. This means water that was extracted
contamination, agrochemicals and spills.13 from the natural environment and purified but
not billed, due to factors like the deterioration
This level of degradation of water sources, both and malfunction in distribution networks, illegal
underground and surface, has to do with connections, hydrant water theft, etc.15
historical processes of over-exploitation of natu-
ral resources for capital accumulation purposes, In addition to the inefficient distribution there is
facilitated by the negligence and complicity of an obvious situation of injustice in access.
the state that has never designed and imple- According to the Committee of Solidarity with the
mented real impactful environmental policies. Salvadoran People (CISPES), in El Salvador more
than 200,000 households do not have access to
Although it is historical, the destruction of the water. While thousands of impoverished families
environment and, in particular, of water resources do not get even a single drop, companies that
continues at present, manifested in serious impacts make carbonated and alcoholic beverages spend
such as those caused by the mass production of millions of liters a day. The same happens in the
sugarcane and threats such as mega-tourism large shopping centers and the most exclusive
and the metal mining industry, in addition to all residential areas where supply is never lacking.
urban development projects that are progressing
in areas with high ecological potential. Considering this inequality, El Salvador experi-
ences water stress at present, becasue even
INJUSTICE IN ACCESS TO WATER though it has a per capita water asset that exceeds
the world average, the conditions of access to
The scarcity of water in the country are precarious.16 This leads
water resources, one to belive that the problem of stress or scar-
degradation and city of drinking water is an ethical and social
climate change problem because it depends on decisions that
adds to the real- imply deliberate unjust management and distri-
ity of injustice in bution. The inequality in its distribution is evident;
access to water. even in places where there is apparently enough
Official statistics water, the poor have difficulty accessing it.17
show an increase
in drinking water For Salvadoran environmentalist; Carolina Amaya,
coverage per pipe- the bottom line is that water is already privatized
line, according to and society has not yet understood the magni-
...MARN, between tude of the problem of it being a de facto
1990 and 2011, privatization where the state has no control and
drinking water coverage increased from 69% private interests abuse the water. An exemplary
to 85% for the urban population and from case is that of the Coca Cola company that dried
the wells in Soyapango and then simply moved its
14 bottling plant to the municipality of Nejapa where
it has since provoked conflict with the community.18
16% to 48% for the rural population. How-
ever, having a home connection to the distri- 13 MARN (2013) Estrategia Nacional de Recursos Hídricos, pág. 9
bution network does not necessarily mean 14 MARN (2013) Estrategia Nacional de Recursos Hídricos, pág. 3
having the service in quantity and quality, 15 Ibid, pág. 4
since the percentage of households with poor 16 Selva Sútter (2011), La Minería Moderna en El Salvador:
water supply is high, which is evident in the
constant streets protests due to lack of water. Perversidad Emblemática de la Mascarada Globalizante, pág. 69
18 Ibid, pág. 70
19 Interview with Carolina Amaya, San Salvador, 6/15/2017

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 4


OTHER IMPACTS AND THREATS TO HYDRIC RESOURCES

While contamination and overexploitation of Climate change is another problem that is seri-
water resources is already tragic, the scarce ously affecting the availability of water, in recent
water available is also brutally affected by years, the El Niño phenomenon has caused severe
activities such as large-scale sugarcane cultiva- and prolonged drought, affecting agricultural
tion mega tourism projects and metal mining. production, and limiting water for human
The section below shows the impacts on water consumption and domestic use, which in turn
resources by the cultivation of large scale sugar affects the emergence of diseases related to basic
cane, tourism and metallic mining efforts as well sanitation. The trend is for this situation to worsen
as the the current reality in El Salvador. in the short term.

LARGE SCALE SUGARCANE PRODUCTION

• It takes 1,500 y 3,000 liters of water to produce Motivated by neoliberal economic policies, the
one kilogram of sugar. sugarcane industry has grown significantly in the
last decade to 3.1% of the Gross Domestic Product.
• Additionally the process requires 10 cubic meters
of water to wash each metric ton of sugar. In the 2013-2014 harvest, more than 7 million tons
of cane were produced on 108,500 manzanas of
• Salvadoran cane producers produce cane in the cultivated land and 15.6 million quintals of sugar
driest season of the year and rely heavily on and 54 million gallons of molasses were produced.
irrigation, causing water tables to fall dramatically. In the harvests of the following years the tendency
has been to increase.

MEGA - TOURISM

• The average tourist consumes more than 492 By the year 2020, the tourism ministry plans to
liters of water daily, equal to 15 times the quantity have built 350 new hotels with 23,000 rooms that
of water consumed by an average Salvadoran. will host 3 million tourists per year. Of which the
government wants 45% to be North Americans and
• An 18-hole golf course, extending between 86 and not more than 40% Central Americans.
115 blocks could use 94.5 million gallons per year.

• The construction and use of swimming pools has
a negative impact on water resources, as many
resorts pour chlorinated or chemically treated
waters into the oceans or other bodies of water.

METAL MINING

• Metal mining uses exorbitant amounts of water. It On March 31, 2017, thanks to strong civil society
is estimated that the Marlin mine in Guatemala uses pressure, othe Salvadoran Congress passed a law
250,000 liters of water per hour, or about 6 million prohibiting metal mining; however, there is always
liters of water per day. the risk that in the future legislation will be changed
to allow this type of industry in the country.
• A In addition to the use of large amounts of water,
metal mining contaminates rivers, lakes and aqui-
fers with cyanide, a highly toxic chemical.

SOURCE Own elaboration based on Voices based on Border (2016) Large-scale Sugarcaone Production in El Salvador, pag. 2, 4, 10 and 11.
Voices on the Border (2014) Tourist Development in the Jiquilisco Bay, pag. 4 and 25. IDHUCA, CARITAS El Salvador (2013),
Myths and Realities of Gold Mining in Central America, pages 8–9.

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 5


POLITICAL ADVOCACY TO GUARANTEE THE RIGHT TO WATER

Participative construction of the ANDA is presented with the proposal of fair, The Legislative Assembly halts
General Water Law equitable and sustainable tariff policy the discussion of the General
Water Law

Proposal presentation of the Water and The Legislative Assembly approves the
Sanitation Subsector Law reform to Art. 69 of the Constitucion

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011 2012 2014 2015

2013

The Legislative Assembly is presented The Legislative Assembly is presented The citizen campaign
with the General Waer Law proposal with an updated General Waer Law “For My Right to Water” begins

The proposal to reform Art. 692 of the constitution, Community Rejecti ot hn2et omwuanridcsi ptahl ied aCdo cNaeCj aopl aa
plant expan sion in
signed by 92,000 citizens, is persented

Fuente: Own elaboration based on: Water Forum (2015), 10 Years of Struggle for Public and Community Management,
Sustainability and the Human Right to Water, pag. 2-4 (en español)

Fighting for justice in access to water, for more In addition, this citizen participation, while
than a decade, civil society organizations and involving organized and planned events, has also
broad sectors of the population have carried out resulted in a strengthening of civil society struc-
a process of political advocacy20 to incorporate tures and has generated spaces for collective
into the legal framework of the country the action among various organizations and social
human right to water and sustainable manage- movements that promote communication and
ment of water resources. The above image illus- debate on the importance of defending natural
trates the chronology of that process. assets such as water and seeking just access to it.

Progress in strengthening the legal framework This process of citizen participation has been
for the human right to water is limited; never- expressed mainly in two concrete demands:
theless, citizen participation has been funda- a constitutional reform so that the human right
mental to prevent private interests from legally to water is recognized in the country's constitu-
appropriating the country's water assets. For tion, and on the other hand a General Water Law
Amaya, although there is a de facto privatiza- that guarantees the sustainable management of
tion, sectors that have economic and political the nation’s goods.
power want full control of water and this has not
happened because it is a sensitive issue that
causes outrage and the mobilization of citizens.21

20 The Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) defines 6
Political Advocacy as the set of actions and processes promoted
by one or more civil society groups in order to bring about
changes in the decisions and policies of public sector institutions
and in the legislation.

21 Interview with Carolina Amaya, San Salvador, 6/15/2017

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017


In other words, the key is whether the govern- THE 5 ESSENTIAL POINTS TO KNOW
ment will dominate the country's water regula- ABOUT THE GENERAL WATER LAW
tion or whether it will allow private parties to
participate in those decisions. "

For representative Guillermo Mata, president of
the Committee on Environment and Climate
Change of the Legislative Assembly, what the
private sector intends is not a simple participa-
tion, they want to have total control of the
governing body, which amounts to the privati-
zation of the water.23 This statement made more
sense on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, when the
four right-wing parties presented a new bill,
called the "Integral Water Law." This proposal
clearly states that the governing body would be
an autonomous institution controlled by the
private sector. For Mata, "this proposal clearly
seeks the privatization of potable water."24

Of course, this new proposal has generated a
strong rejection from citizens, in fact, many
civil society organizations and movements have
expressed concern and have asked that it be
withdrawn from the Legislative Assembly. That
is to say the demand of citizens is not simply a
water law, and less a neoliberal court that deliv-
ers the water assets of the country to the
private sector. The General Water Law, which
the population has demanded for more than a
decade, must comply with certain conditions
and according to the Water Forum, there are
five fundamental points to understand about it.

PHOTO: The Water Forum

23 Opinion delivered at a working meeting in which the author of this Source: Own elaboration based on: The Water Forum (2015),
report participated, Legislative Assembly,5/31/17 10 Years of Struggle for Public and Community Management,
Sustainability and Human Right to Water, Pag. 2–5 (en español)
24 Diario Co Latino, Ley de Agua Presentada por la Derecha, un Paso
Hacia la Privatización del Vital Líquido, 6/15/17

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER 2017 8


One of the core issues is the management of The coordination of the National Water Authority
public water, in fact this is the issue that has would be under the responsibility of the MARN,
stalled the discussion of political parties, and while a board of directors in which civil society
on this subject the bill proposed by the legisla- would be widely represented would coordinate
tive right, is opposed to the government having the National Water Council.
institutional control of water management.
Another important level of citizen participation,
In this regard, the Association of Participatory within the framework of this proposal, are the
Radios of El Salvador (ARPAS), stated in one of Basin Committees, understood as referring
its editorials:25 "Although demagogically men- bodies in the territories for the operational imple-
tioning the right to water and the public man- mentation of water policies. Unlike the other pro-
agement of vital liquid as guiding principles, posals, the UCA initiative gives a relevant role to
the so-called (Integral) Water Law would these structures, stating that the Basin Commit-
deliver the control of the governing entity tees must include, with proportional representa-
called Water Authority to the National Associa- tion, community water boards, social movements
tion of Private Companies (ANEP). With this linked to water and environmental issues, NGOs,
kind of control, companies would turn water local entrepreneurs, women's organizations, aca-
into their business." demia, research institutions, churches, local gov-
ernments and others whose activities are related
The way to avoid this risk is the formation of to the integral management of water resources.26
strong public institutions with broad citizen
participation, where the environmental, social, Below are some of the functions proposed by
cultural, economic and political aspects related these Basin Committees:27
to water governance and sustainability are
discussed and decided upon. A...To promote actions in the area of the basin
for its insertion in the official development of
UCA’s PROPOSAL water system planning;

Considering the reality, the José Simeón Cañas B...Promote measures and mechanisms for alter-
Central American University (UCA) has pre- native solutions to conflicts between users or
sented a proposal on institutions governing other actors (non-judicial) regarding the use,
water, with a clear purpose of incorporating in use, conservation and protection of water
the law citizen participation in an important resources.
position for decision making regarding how
water resources are managed. C...Promote equitable community participation in
monitoring the use, exploitation, protection and
In UCA’s proposal, water management at the conservation of water; in particular, the active
strategic level would be composed of a public participation of women.
regulator called the National Water Authority
(ANA) with functions like design, management D...Issue opinions, on applications for authoriza-
and implementation of policies, plans, pro- tions for the use and exploitation of water;
grams and practices related to the water sector
and an advisory body with broad representa- E...Contribute to the fulfillment of the conditions
tion and sectorial participation in order to sup- and measures contained in the authorizations
port the analysis, deliberation and decision- granted by ANA.
making of the National Water Authority called
National Water Council (CNA). F...Provide information, make suggestions or
comments on the water situation in the basin to
the zonal body as input for the National Water
Resources Policy.

25 Diario Co Latino, Agua Alerta Máxima, 15/6/17
26 UCA, Propuesta Sobre Institucionalidad Rectora del Agua, Pág. 10
27 Ibid, Pág. 11

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 9


MOVIAC’s PROPOSAL

The Movement of Victims, Affected by Climate Sustainability
Change and Corporations (MOVIAC), is another The nation's water community assets must be
civil society organization that has presented managed with a comprehensive and long-term
a proposal to the Legislative Assembly. The following vision, with an ecosystem approach, which
is the proposal of MOVIAC regarding the Law: implies the protection of nature as a whole and
not only the basins of water sources, so that the
In terms of efficiency, MOVIAC proposes that the needs of present and future generations are
governing body be part of the Executive Body, in met, without affecting the ability of ecosystems
the form of a Vice Ministry of Water, attached to to constantly replenish aquifers.
MARN. In order to strengthen the principle of
justice, it aims to create a controlling body whose Water as a Common Good
function is to ensure that the management of the Usually, an anthropocentric view of water
water resource is oriented to guarantee the human prevails, its importance for the life of ecosys-
right to water. This comptroller body could be tems, other species, and other beings, on which
formed with the following representation: the life of human beings also depends, is often
overlooked. Water should be considered and
• The Presidency of the Republic managed as a common good in ecosystems
• Environmental Organisms where people are only one of its components.
• Social Organisms
• Indigenous People Solidarity
• Women’s Groups Every action or process based on greed and indi-
• Private Businesses vidualism must be rejected, since these human
• Academic Sector behaviors have caused the most problems.
Nature must be imitated in its sense of solidarity,
The reality of the community's water resources where the damage or benefit to one part, has
must lead to the prevailing need to legislate so repercussions on the whole. Water is an abundant
that water is efficiently managed and distributed good that has become scarce for many populations
in a fair and equitable way, therefore, MOVIAC due to poor management, as some populations
demands the approval of a water law that mini- have abundant sources, therefore, solidarity
mally includes the following fundamental contents: among peoples and communities must be shared.

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 10


Territorial Sovriegnty of the People CIVIC MANAGMENT & CONSERVATION
In water management, as a natural good, it OF COMMUNITY WATER RESOURCES
must be understood its community and territo-
rial character and that its origin is from the Beyond the struggle for the approval of the General
mountains, hills and births and that indigenous Water Law and other reforms to the legal frame-
peoples historically were and in some cases work, many groups, grassroots organizations and
remain those who conserve and protect it under rural communities make extraordinary efforts to
ancestral and/or local governance schemes. protect their water sources, as well as to conserve
Therefore, no interference of national economic forests, soil and biodiversity. Examples of this work
interests or transnational corporations that intend are the community water boards of many places in
to appropriate it and exploit it for private profit the country like the Amando López and the La
should be allowed to do so. Tirana communities in Jiquilisco, Usulután.

Equity and Justice The Community Drinking Water Boards
The priority in water use should be to ensure In the absence of the State managing water
the integrity of life, including human consump- resources and ensuring the fair distribution of
tion, food production, stability of ecosystems clean and sufficient water, many communities
and biodiversity, ensuring that even the sectors have established their own systems for the
that do not have the economic resources to pay collection, storage and distribution of drinking
for it have enough water to lead a healthy and water and have created their own organizational
active life. Differences in social, ideological, structures for their administration. Several sources
sex, religious or cultural status should not lead estimate that there are between 2,000 and 2,300
to any type of discrimination in regards to water management community water manage-
access to water. ment boards. According to CESTA Friends of the
Earth El Salvador, these provide water to 256,000
Complementarity and Interdependency families, representing more than 30% of the rural
It is essential to understand that everything is and semi-urban population of the country.28
interconnected, and maintains a relationship of
interdependence between the human and the While these water boards are an example of citizen
natural world and therefore if nature, biodiver- participation, they face significant challenges,
sity and ecosystems are damaged, our bodies especially those related to the lack of economic
are damaged and water sources and life are resources and the technical capacity to function
destroyed in general. efficiently. They also face a growing demand for
new users, which they can not usually satisfy due
Redistribution to the same economic and technical constraints.
The communal and national goods that gener-
ate wealth must be for the use and enjoyment On the other hand, there is scarce unity and
of communities, peoples and society in general, weak links between a few of these organizations.
in a sustainable way and not in the usual way, If they could in any way constitute a collective
that only benefits the ruling classes and foreign voice, they could have significant political power
investors. Therefore, the approach of redistri- and put sufficient pressure on the State to gener-
bution of goods between all human beings, ate policies that favor to the rural population with
ecosystems, biodiversity and mother nature is regard to the provision of drinking water.
necessary.
But more importantly, water boards in many parts
28 CESTA (2016), Rural Water Management Boards and their of the country have demonstrated that they can be
Importance in the Sustainable Management of the Country's a mechanism for organizing communities and
Water Resources (en español) defending their water resources from pollution,
overuse and other threats. In addition, to the
extent that the community is involved in managing
their own systems, it prevents them from falling
into the hands of private interests for profit.

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 11


There are also abundant examples of these water aquifer, where local farmers can access it
boards going beyond the simple management of through shallow wells, ensuring availability of
their communal systems, approaching what water throughout the summer season.
would be considered real hydric resource man-
agement. They are implementing reforestation In the years prior to the decision of the
programs in water recharge areas, protecting soil ADESCO, farmers in Amando López and its
and biodiversity through the promotion of sus- neighboring communities allowed their cattle to
tainable agriculture, and conducting environmen- graze freely through the forest, and to cut trees
tal education programs that teach children, youth to expand the crop areas or simply to sell them
and adults the value of water and the importance as wood or firewood.
of doing responsible use of it.
From 2010 to 2013, the entire community par-
Undoubtedly, these groups have the advantage of ticipated in a project to protect the forest and
being located in the territories where water is water resources. They asked MARN and other
produced and used, which gives them the ability agencies to grant the forest protected status so
to experience and understand the problem better. that no activity could take place that would
The role of the State should be to create the have negative impacts. The protected status also
spaces necessary for these important organiza- made it illegal for cattle to graze in the forest.
tions to be part of the national water manage-
ment system of the country. Governing boards of The ADESCO solicited and received grants from
rural drinking water systems are already an effec- the government and international agencies to
tive mechanism for citizen participation and have educate community members about the impor-
the potential to improve. tance of protecting the forest. They trained a
team of leaders to serve as guards who monitor
Comunidad Amando López all activities in and around the forest. The proj-
In 2010, the newly elected board of directors or ect has been a success, the forest is alive and
ADESCO of Amando López, a community of 150 healthy, and community members work to keep
families from the Bajo Lempa region of it that way.
Jiquilisco, Usulután, decided that the protection
of a local forest, 60 manzanas in length, was its The efforts of the Amando López community to
top priority. This forest runs along the Lempa protect this small forest is an example of the
River. In addition to protecting the community actions Salvadorans throughout the country
from flooding, forest is important to protect can take to defend water resources. They do
water resources. not have to wait for the government to identify
solutions to the problems facing their commu-
In the rainy season, the trees in this forest nity. Most of the time, it is important that com-
ensure that the soil is soft and porous, and able munities act first and in this way force the
to absorb water from the rain. The water that government to support them.
trees do not use flows into the underground
Comunidad La Tirana
La Tirana is a community of just 22 families,
located in the western zone of the Bay of
Jiquilisco. It is characterized by being literally
surrounded by one of the most luscious man-
grove forests of the entire Central American
Pacific coast, in fact, upon entering the man-
grove its thickness is such that it gives the
impression that it begins to dusk.

The water table is shallow and through artesian
wells families can access the water that they
then disinfect using sand filters and other
methods of easy application.

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017 12


In November 2015, the villagers observed that 13
foreigners took soil samples and made measure-
ments on the land surrounding the forest, which
aroused suspicions and when they inquired, it
turned out to be a massive sugarcane project.

Knowing the serious environmental impacts
caused by the cultivation of sugar cane, the
population quickly mobilized. The first step was
to alert neighboring communities and thus to
add social strength, this way they were able to
slow down the progress of tractors that had
already begun the soil preparation work. The
action of the community also resulted in the
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock and the
Minister of the Environment to visit the site and
commit themselves to a greater accompaniment
to the population in the actions for the defense
of their resources. This is how the La Tirana
community managed to cancel a project that
threatened its forest and its water.

CONCLUSION

Two opposing views prevail over water. On the
one hand, there are national and transnational
groups that seek to market it, and on the other
hand a large sector of civil society rejects any
attempt at privatization, rightly reasoning that
water is a common good and access to it is a
basic human right.

These conflicting interests have motivated a
wide and sustained civic participation that until
now has been sufficient enough to prevent
national and transnational companies from
completely owning the country's water;
however, it is necessary to intensify the involve-
ment of civil society in the creation of laws and
policy development that recognize and ensure
the human right to water.

Equally important, all Salvadorans must play a
role in defending the nation's water assets,
so that the needs of the present and future
generations can be met.

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER IN EL SALVADOR BY VOICES ON THE BORDER, 2017


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