On March 27, organizations of the National Forum on Water marched to El Salvador's legislature to demand action on national water law and recognition of the importance of water as a basic human right. They were marching to demand action on legislation which has been stalled for many months in the National Assembly. You can review coverage of the march from two organizations which participated -- the Center for the Defense of the Consumer, and the Salvadoran Lutheran church.
The march was part of growing movement for water rights in El Salvador, a movement which is growing increasingly sophisticated in its political activism. Once largely limited to local communities blocking highways to complain about a lack of water delivery to their homes, the movement now uses web sites, video, coalitions, letter writing campaigns, legislation drafting and coalition building to advocate for water rights in the country.
Much of this campaign is organized under the name "Democracia Azul -- Blue Democracy," which has an English language website. From the press release announcing the start of the Blue Democracy campaign:
[V]arious Salvadoran organizations, social movements and citizens engaged and committed to the defense of life launched the civic campaign called “Blue Democracy”, which aims to construct a broad national movement for the right to water, which, among other things, encourages the recognition of water as a universal human right, as part of a complete democracy.Blue Democracy claims 122 organizations as member of the campaign. An article titled For a Blue Democracy explains more:
In this context of festive, broad and peaceful participation, we request the following:
- That the government of El Salvador and its legislative assembly adopt the proposals of a General Water Law and a Potable Water and Sanitation Law presented by the social organizations.
- That Salvadoran society, as a whole, is invited to participate in the civic campaign demanding compliance with the human right to water.
- That the actions of the IDB, KFW, JICA, BM, IMF, and other international institutions, promote sustainability and respect for the human right to water and cease to promote projects geared towards privatizing the country’s vital liquid.
- That the agencies and the international community accompany this civic movement of the Salvadoran people.
The 2006 United Nations Development Program study “Water, an Economic Valorization of El Salvador’s Water Resources” says that even though the country has above-average water resources to supply the population and satisfy industrial and agricultural needs, the distribution of the resource is poor, a factor that has become a top cause of the country’s hindered economic and social development....Prominent participants in the Blue Democracy Campaign include El Salvador's Center for the Defense of the Consumer and Unity for Salvadoran Ecology. An example of the international support this movement is getting is this video of support from American actor Mike Farrell. The Salvadoran water campaigns are part of a movement throughout Latin America, as described in this recent article by Bart Beeson.
Organizations say that the Salvadoran government fails to fulfill its responsibility to provide water because the lack of a legal framework and institutions to efficiently regulate water management.
This issue has led organizations such as Caritas El Salvador, the Lutheran Church, The National Water Forum, the Prudencia Ayala Feminist Coalition and Mesoamerican Women’s Resistance, among others, to launch the campaign “Blue Democracy.”
“The issue that brings all of us together is water. We’re trying to improve water quality and make sure it is not privatized,” says Zuleima Funes, a representative of the National Water Forum.
The government policy to pass water management to the mayoral offices does not guarantee these officials the technological capacity or financing. These mayors already have little resources, so this policy will force them to turn to private companies for funds.
“What [this policy] hides is the transfer to private investors. The mayors are open to taking on the responsibility, but conditions need to be established first,” said Trejo.
Civil organizations have already presented the Legislative Assembly two water law proposals. In March 2006, they presented a bill that seeks to reorganize the country’s water resources and regulate the sector.