Hundreds of rural Salvadorans gathered in San Salvador on June 27 to demand that congress include them in the debate on a water law that opponents see as aime...

Hundreds of rural Salvadorans gathered in San Salvador on June 27 to demand that congress include them in the debate on a water law that opponents see as aimed at opening the door to privatisation.

The demonstrators marched from the capital’s Centenario Park to the Legislative Assembly, where they presented a letter demanding that water be declared “a social interest good.” Orlando Aguiluz, a representative of the Community Water Boards, told EFE that it is necessary for people living in the county’s rural areas to be part of the debate, so as to “prevent right-wing parties from taking away their right to water.” San Salvador Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas talks to reporters about a UCA study on water laws throughout Latin America in San Salvador, El Salvador, June 25, 2018.

EPA-EFE/Armando Escobar Aguiluz said that the creation of the boards stemmed from the lack of access to drinking water in many hamlets.

The 2,500 Community Water Boards throughout the nation provide water to more than 2 million Salvadorans living in rural areas.

Aguiluz said that the boards will remain vigilant of the outcome of the resolution and will not hesitate to take to the streets again if legislators do not address their concerns.

Recent weeks have witnessed large protests in El Salvador against the idea of privatising water.

A couple of days before the demonstration from Centenario Park, the Catholic Church and Jesuit-run Central American University (UCA) had delivered to Salvadoran lawmakers a study on water management in Latin America as Congress mulled the law.

The study – drafted in 2017 by Costa Rican specialist Lilian Quezada, with support from UCA – shows that most Latin American countries have a state regulatory body that manages water with an eye toward the citizens’ common good, UCA chancellor Andreu Oliva said.

He added that the report will allow members of Congress’ Environment and Climate Change Commission to get a “better overview of the importance of water being managed by public entities, as opposed to the private sector.” Ombud of El Salvador Raquel Caballero talks to reporters regarding the approval of a controversial water law that opponents see as aimed at opening the door to privatisation in San Salvador, El Salvador, June 27, 2018.

EPA-EFE/Armando Escobar “We brought this study because we see a closed disposition by the commission’s right-wing legislators, who have already made up their minds about the bill they want to present in a plenary session, which will not represent the interests of society and aims to hand (water management) to the private sector,” he said.

Oliva and San Salvador Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas also gave lawmakers a letter requesting that UCA experts be included in the debate on water law.

The archbishop said that the Salvadoran Catholic Church will continue defending the rights of the country’s poor, demanding a “fair, efficient and equal” water law.

A 2016 study by the national ombud’s office concluded that a shortage of water – which has gotten worse with climate change – will make life in El Salvador impossible within 80 years.

On April 14, 2015, the Salvadoran government decreed the lack of water a national emergency.

— EFE-epa.

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