PBI-Guatemala accompanies Chinautla right to water group at Poqoman festival

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On October 28, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Yesterday we accompanied the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform in the celebration of the 2nd Festival for Life, Dignity and the Territory of the [Indigenous Maya] Poqoman people.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “Particularly, in the absence of water in the municipality they reinvidicated [insist on the recognition of] the right to water.”

The Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform advocates for the human right to water to be respected and raises concerns about the nearby resource (sand) extraction that endangers homes and a massive garbage dump that pollutes water.

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained, “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.”

They add, “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.

Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform member Martín Catalán has stated 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.

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 (the dump in zone 3 in) Guatemala City into their community.

The human right to water

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 people.

The PBI-Guatemala Project has accompanied the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform since December 2018.

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