PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform’s struggle for the right to water

Published by Brent Patterson on

The PBI – Guatemala Project accompanies the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform (la Plataforma Urbana Multisectorial Chinautla) that advocates for the human right to water to be respected and that raises concerns about the resource (sand) extraction that endangers homes and a massive garbage dump that pollutes water.

On June 10, PBI-Guatemala posted on Facebook, “Due to the lack of access and pollution of the basins, [the Urban Platform] has requested the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Mayor of Santa Cruz Chinaulta, and other competent authorities to carry out the appropriate actions to guarantee the right to water in the short, medium and long term.”

PBI-Guatemala has previously posted on its website, “Since 1989, the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform has defended its right to be consulted on the projects of several sand companies operating in its territory (Arenera La Primavera, Arenera El Pino, San Luis Piedrinera and San Fernando Arenera).”

That web-page adds, “The region has been a sand area for decades, but it was in 1995 when large-scale sand extraction began with heavy machinery” with major consequences.

In May 2018, the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre reported that the extraction of sand from the channel of the Chinautla River and the confluence of the Tzaljá and Las Vacas tributaries, in an area where there are already geological faults, accelerates the cracking of walls and the sinking of some homes in the community.

That newspaper notes that there are three sandpits in the area. Those operations were authorized for 25 years by the Ministry of Energy and Mines and then-Mayor Arnoldo Medrano.

That May 2018 article also highlighted that those licences could expire in about three years (likely meaning around 2020-21).

Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform member Martín Catalán stated that in 2016 that the group had called for the extraction of the sand to be moderated to stop the erosion of the soil, but that their proposals were not taken into account by local authorities.

Catalán says, “This area is dying and the authorities have been indifferent to the problem.”

Prensa Libre has also noted that the residents of Santa Cruz Chinautla are additionally impacted because during rainy season the floods from three rivers drag trash from Guatemala City into their community.

PBI-Guatemala has explained this as, “This population is also affected by the pollution of the river, which comes from the dump in zone 3 of the Capital City, a problem that increases during the rainy season.”

The Urban Platform has stated, “There is no will to administer and distribute to guarantee the human right to water” and that the cause of this is the “corruption of authorities”.

Their proposal is to “Create a water law and government and municipal agreements that guarantee community and indigenous peoples’ participation to guarantee equal rights to water” within a two year period.

This demand has a constitutional context.

In August 2017, Oxford Human Rights Hub explained, “Guatemala’s constitution has several provisions that provide for or implicate the right to clean and safe water. Despite this, Guatemala remains the only country in Central America, along with El Salvador, not to have proper legislation that protects the right to water access and that regulates its use.”

That article adds, “In April 2016 there was nationwide mobilization by rural and indigenous communities to demand a stop to the theft and contamination of water. This led to a proposal for a new law (5070) which seeks to give the greatest possible power to communities to manage their water resources and to enforce the right of communities to be consulted on any agribusiness or mining project in their area.”

Furthermore, the degradation of the Chinautla river basin has also been characterized as an “eco-ethnocide” against the Poqomam Maya People of Guatemala.

The PBI – Guatemala Project has accompanied la Plataforma Urbana Multisectorial Chinautla since December 2018.

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