Alternative World Water Forum

Indigenous people protest over water rights, as Ecuador’s government continues to ignore their demands.

If you are going to pass unpopular legislation, you may as well do it while everyone is watching the World Cup. When Ecuadorians were focused on soccer, the government fast-tracked a new water law, endorsing the privatisation of water and permitting extractive activities in sources of freshwater. The controversial law was approved without a fuss in four days by a governing party that controls about two-thirds of legislative seats.

Social sectors reacted with a cross-country walk of protest. Strong resistance came from the indigenous movement, which has demanded equal access to water for nearly two decades. Many other sectors joined in disapproval of a government increasingly perceived as anti-democratic. About 20 organisations allied in a Front of Resistance and set off to walk from the Amazon to Quito. It was the second large mobilisation to defend water rights against extractive industries. This time, however, it was a broader coalition calling for civil disobedience against a state that regularly ignores constitutional rights.

Walking for water

The Walk for Water, Life and People’s Freedom started on June 21 in the Amazon province of Zamora Chinchipe, where Ecuador’s first mega-mining project is planned to open in the hills of Condor Mirador. About 100 participants walked, and at times, drove some 960km in a 12-day journey to the capital in the highlands. They were teenagers and elderly women, lawyers and peasants, over a third of them Amazonian. Many more people joined irregularly for shorter distances. The walk counted over 1,000 people when it reached Cuenca’s cathedral, where the bishop held a mass for water. In the rural province of Canar, thousands of indigenous people took to the roads to support demands for water rights.

Activists carried a 25-metre long blue flag with the words “we are water”. They chanted that water should be defended, not sold out to corporations, with slogans such as “go away Chinese mining” and “down with the socialism of the 21st century”. The political protest counted with the tunes of singer Rosa Lanchimba, who revamped traditional songs into water demands, and the Amazon rap composer Jota Al Cuadrado, who used his mic to reveal an artificial socialism that encourages extractivism.

Read more on the website of Aljazeera

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