PBI-Guatemala accompanies Indigenous community council verifying water pollution from sugar mills
On August 4, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the Retalhuleu Community Council (CCR) and Virginia Tech University experts in verifying water pollution in rivers of the Champerico region.”
PBI-Guatemala has previously explained: “The CCR consists of more than 18 communities in the department of Retalhuleu (mainly the municipality of Champerico), belonging to the Mam, K’iche’ and Ixil peoples.”
Abelino Mejia Cancino of the CCR says: “We need people to realize that when they consume sugar, it has an impact on the life of the communities and on the right to water for all. We call for the consumption of what is healthy and good produced by the campesinos and not products made by the big companies.”
Notably, the Guatemalan Sugar Association (ASAZGUA) has identified Canada as the top export destination for Guatemalan sugar.
In September 2020 it reported Guatemala exported 333,596 metric tons of sugar to Canada.
Water pollution, river diversions by sugar mills
The defenders have stated: “We organize ourselves in a peaceful way to publicize the consequences of sugar cane, the diversion of rivers that the mills have.”
PBI-Guatemala has noted: “The CCR began to organize in 2015 as a result of adverse effects caused by the expansion of the monoculture of sugar and the use of large-scale agrochemicals and pesticides used by the mills in the region.”
Their article adds: “In recent years there has been drought and pollution of wells, rivers and lagoons, as well as the destruction of livelihoods, causing lack of access to water and health problems such as malnutrition and respiratory and renal ailments.”
As a result of their defence of the right to water, four members of the Retalhuleu Community Council have been criminalized by the El Pilar and Magdalena sugar mills.
PBI-Guatemala has accompanied them since April 2020.