“Water Law in Costa Rica”, Crime or Sin of Omission

A personal analysis by a national expert

“I have been listening lately, with great attention, to the opinion of different experts on the water issue of our beloved country. Today I listen with more force and vehemence, due to the legislative proposal to enact a new “Water Law” that completely replaces the current law dating from 1942, which has been subject to reforms that have been updated according to needs and demands passing time and knowledge”.

“I have read very extreme arguments; some with lack of foundation on the text of the law, but I have also analyzed well-founded arguments that explain regressions and eminent dangers of Bill No. 20,212”.

“Among the comments that in my opinion have arguments that I consider well-founded and timely, I can cite experts such as Sergio Ortiz Pérez, engineer Jorge Hernández Salas and biologist Freddy Pacheco”.

“From my point of view, I consider that the first great sin of the deputies of the Legislative Assembly has been secrecy and the scarce public debate on a project that comes to manage a vital resource for life, for the planet and for all economic activities in our country. Of course we have a lot of water wealth, but it is poorly managed and what the aforementioned project does in my opinion is to accentuate weaknesses and controls”.

A very serious issue for the nation

“It is not possible for such a strategic project to be approved without Costa Ricans knowing it thoroughly to analyze its real impacts, and I get the impression that the deputies have taken the issue of being a “social bubble” very seriously, and even think that people’s “mask” is an impediment, a brake, to avoid debate and citizen political control”.

“A second great sin that worries me, and that this bill intends, is the excessive concentration of power on the water resource in the Ministry of the Environment, to the point that the words “rector” and “integrated management” have been misunderstood as synonymous with the concentration of functions in a single entity, eliminating the same functions of other fundamental state actors”.

“In essence, it seeks to eliminate the participation of existing technicians in the current environmental legislation, with a bill that does not offer any space for citizen participation, thus undermining the public interest that water represents”.

“Furthermore, with this new water law, authoritarianism is favored that will increase the risk of deviations of power to the benefit of current and future elites, as we have seen during this Government on various issues. A total contradiction of a ruling party -silent in criticizing this law- that defines itself as prone to participation and citizen action”.

“This law then promotes the elimination of technical guarantees for protection and surveillance, established in current environmental legislation. However, by eliminating checks and balances, we are removing a key foundation in the political exercise of democracy, and consequently acting outside the established constitutional framework, thus emptying decision-making into an entity that clearly changes every 4 years and that it could skew true water protection interests into dangerously petty interests”.

“The third great sin of this bill has to do with the way in which it intends to curtail constructive participation from the communities, as well as that of various social actors, for instruments as important as Politics, Plans, and Water Balances. Thus, a call for continuous conflict is promoted instead of having to evolve towards a proposal for the resolution of conflicts over this precious liquid, organizing by law the participatory construction of solutions for a resource that is increasingly scarce and therefore more valuable”.

“I have no doubt that the national water problem at this time does not consist in its scarcity, but in the quality of the water, its rational use and its conservation, especially when an alarming percentage of the water is contaminated in our rivers and springs. We know that in the area of sanitation what has been needed is not a law, but rather administrative and technical capacity to establish sanitation solutions and execute existing loans efficiently”.

Urgent citizen involvement

“Before a water law that is badly discussed, badly conceptualized, environmentally regressive in various aspects, concentrating power and totally undemocratic, it is urgent and necessary to analyze what things are not done today due to inaction of the entities linked to the water sector or due to the absence of true professionals in charge of the position of the conductor of the so-called Minister of the Environment”.

“It is urgent that, first of all, technical and scientific decisions be shielded from the power of particular criteria, which sometimes are not the best or the ones that will perpetuate life on this planet when we do not have water to drink”.

“The current law has allowed the development of all social, cultural and economic activities in the country and has not been a brake on it; therefore, it is preferable to make adjustments when necessary, and not to continue promoting a substitute law, retrograde, without a sense of opportunity and full of sins, since this would undoubtedly serve the table to a handful of petty interests and undemocratic”.

Resonance Costa Rica
VIA Beleida Delgado
SOURCEClaudio Alpízar Otoya
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