The Environment Commission in the Legislative Assembly passed bill # 20.212 called: “Law for Integrated Management of Water Resources” without incorporating the 21 observations raised by environmental organizations through documents and hearings.
The bill presents ambiguities that threaten the exercise of the public domain over water; it lacks substantive advances in the protection of water sources that eradicate the actions of overexploitation, hoarding, contamination; generates a significant setback in social participation in the control of the public domain; Furthermore, the legislative proposal contains important regressions in environmental terms.
In the text, drafting gaps were observed to guarantee public domain and social interest in the management of water resources as an objective of the Law, since it lacks mechanisms for social participation in planning.
Likewise, the law lacks tools to increase water governance. For example: there is no article to prevent the perpetuation of people in positions such as the National Water Directorate, which currently generates ineffective efforts and with little transparency.
The legislative proposal denies the legal recognition of ASADAS (Comunal Water Administrators). These organizations are totally absent, leaving them with legal uncertainty. Furthermore, it is urgent to include the Precautionary Principle in the definitions and articles for its timely application by the public administration.
On the issue of pollution, it is a mistake to remove from the law an important term such as “diffuse pollution” that would allow appropriate sanction against damages, due to the complexity of environmental dynamics and the need to protect the common interest in cases of pollution with agrochemicals by agro-industrial companies.
Equally worrying is that in the field of environmental impact assessment, the possibility of protecting the vital fluid is limited. The legislative proposal maintains water with barely an insignificant 8% of the score in the analysis of the impact of the projects, preventing itself from effectively protecting the sources, for which reason direct analysis of the extractive impact based on the criteria of environmental flow is proposed.
There are concerns about ambiguous or risky elements for the sustainable environmental management of water and the effective public domain, such as the inclusion of livestock farms in domestic use, the unjustified “special uses of water” that evade the payment of fees, the recognition for investments that transfer public functions to private actors and under-financed public management, in addition to the controversial figure of self-sufficiency in condominiums that superimposes private interests over the common interest.
In a context of growing conflict over issues of protection and access to water, and the current inability of institutions to respond to and adequately resolve these situations, this bill does not represent sufficient progress to protect an effective right to water.