PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform in its struggle for the human right to water

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On November 13, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Yesterday we accompanied the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform at a public hearing before the Constitutional Court of Guatemala.”

PBI-Guatemala continues, “The hearing dealt with the appeal filed by the municipality of Chinautla after the ampáro declared in favour of the community. The ruling ordered the authorities to guarantee access to drinking water.”

An amparo has been defined as “a preliminary certificate issued to a claimant of land as a protection for the claim until a survey can be had and the full title vested.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “To date, the municipality of Chinautla has not fulfilled this demand, which is a fundamental right recognized by the United Nations.”

The UN recognized right to water

The UN has noted, “On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.”

The UN adds, “The Resolution calls upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.”

The right to water vs. sand extraction, garbage

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.”

It 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.

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 Guatemalan constitution and the 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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