PBI-Guatemala marks World Water Day and the importance of protecting water for all life

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has posted, “Today marks World Water Day. Its main goal is to raise awareness in humanity of the importance of caring for so-called liquid gold for the lives of humans and species on Earth.”

The quote says: “We are the women who have to see how to get water for the family, to feed and to wash. Women have to go to the river, but there are not many rivers anymore, and those that are are contaminated or no longer have water.”

The statement is by Sandra Calel of the Verapaz Union of Campesino Organisations (UVOC) which has 367 affiliated communities (about 50,000 families); 98 per cent of which are indigenous maya Q’eqchi’, Poqomchi’ and Achi.

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied UVOC since 2005.

The climate crisis and water scarcity

Earlier this year, PBI-Guatemala also hosted a film screening and discussion in Guatemala City on the climate crisis and water shortages.

They presented the documentary ‘La Sangre de la Tierra’ after which they had a discussion on “how the climate crisis is shown in Guatemala, especially through the dramatic shortage of water present in many parts of the country.”

The United Nations World Water Day website further highlights that interrelationship: “Extreme weather events are making water more scarce, more unpredictable, more polluted or all three. Humans need water to survive, as do all the systems we rely on: sanitation, healthcare, education, business and industry.”

The UN has also stated, “Climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial. Every country in the world must work more quickly.”

The impact on Guatemala

PBI-Guatemala has noted in its Bulletin No. 42 (in the article Communities raise their voices about the climate crisis), “The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges that has faced humanity for decades and, having grown in urgency over time, it is now causing much alarm. Despite this urgency, however, so far the necessary measures have not been taken worldwide to stop it and avoid reaching a point of no return.”

That article in Bulletin No. 42 also highlighted, “Guatemala is among the countries most affected by this emergency.”

Supporting that point, Reuters has reported, “Guatemala could see a rise of 3 to 6 degrees Celsius by 2100 and a drop of 10 to 30 percent in rainfall if countries such as China, India and the United States do not cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guatemalan System of Climate Change Sciences (SGCCC).”

And The Guardian has reported, “In 2018, drought-related crop failures directly affected one in 10 Guatemalans, and caused extreme food shortages for almost 840,000 people, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).”

Megaprojects vs the right to water and human rights defenders

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation Léo Heller has noted the impact of mega-projects on these fundamental rights.

He highlights, “Human rights defenders advocating the rights of those affected by megaprojects have faced harassment, physical assault, bodily injuries and even death.”

PBI-Guatemala accompanies human rights defenders opposed to megaprojects that impact their right to water including:

– the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform (opposed to garbage pollution and a major sand extraction project),

– CCDA Verapaz (opposed to the construction of the Rocja Pontilá hydroelectric dam),

– Nuevo Dia (opposed to the ‘Cantera Los Manantiales’ mine in Olopa), and

– Samuel Choc Ac (who has stated that palm oil plantation waste is impacting the Chiribiscal, Quimala, San Román and Negro rivers).

The human rights to water and sanitation

On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly, through Resolution 64/292, recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that these rights are essential to the realization of all human rights.

Peace Brigades International is a global human rights organization that accompanies, advocates and communicates to make space for peace and to uphold all human rights, including the human rights to water and sanitation.

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