Water is a natural asset and a fundamental right. It is essential for life and a basic condition for access to other rights such as the right to health, to food, and the general wellbeing of the people.
The water crisis that is happening in Bolivia’s national territory at the moment has been provoked by the deterioration of the natural sources and cycles of water, by the impacts of climate change, and aggravated to the extreme by a state administration that is acting contrary to the principles of the human right to water, climate justice, and the care of Mother Earth.
This crisis, that has become a humanitarian crisis of alarming proportions in some regions and cities of Bolivia, has obliged the population to seek drinking water in precarious circumstances, in many cases outside the sanitation system. This is affecting the most vulnerable people in the population – womenin particular, who are forced to intensify the use of their time, sacrificing their time for rest and self care and risking their personal security in order to seek water outside their homes.
However, this crisis is also an opportunity to put into practice a transcendental, social, and systemic change; a change in the model of social and productive organization and in social values– changes that could lead us towards a strengthened, resilient and just society acting in solidarity with all peoples, a society that is institutionally and socially capable of caring for our water, and therefore would have the capacity to respond to global changes.
Because of the aforementioned, as Bolivian citizens that have the inalienable and legitimate right to express ourselves about this water crisis and other national problems and issues –despite the governmental accusations condemning the citizen’s protests – we demand:
- That the government, the departmental governorships, and the autonomous municipal governments assume their respective responsibilities for effective and efficient management of water, and that they invest our resources responsibly in clean water systems for human consumption and agriculture. We want central government and the departmental governorships to concentrate on building clean energy systems such as wind and solar, to invest in a just transition, to invest in healthcare, security, and in the lives of the population, and in particular to work to prevent violence and machismo against women and girls instead of focusing on unsustainable projects. We want the authorities to invest in life, not death.
- An end to exorbitant and inflated spending on luxurious state buildings for the officialism, security, travel, and comforts of the governing new elite, at the expense of our resources, our lives, and our health.
- No more investment of the people’s money in ecologically and socially unsustainable policies and mega projects, which are not transparent, not efficient, and that have serious impacts on the water cycle, on our ecosystems, and on the rights of indigenous people, such as:
- The mega hydroelectric dam of El Bala-Chepete, with a scandalous initial cost of nearly 7 billion dollars. This megadam would kill off 676.72 square kilometers of Amazonian rainforest, causing trees and vegetation to rot, annihilating species of plants and animals, and flooding the territories of indigenous peoples, displacing the official Communal Lands of Origin of the Mosetén people, displacing the Leco and Takana peoples, the inhabitants of San José de Uchupiamonas, and the Torewa people, the Esse eja people, the Chimán people, all communities that inhabit the Amazon region of La Paz department;
- The Nuclear Research Center (CIDETEN) in the city of El Alto – a project with a cost of 300 million dollars, which violates Article 344 of our Constitution, an article prohibiting the transit of nuclear waste within Bolivian territory. The bilateral agreement signed between Russia and Bolivia also violates Bolivian law;
- The Mining Law (approved in 2014) which only reflects the mining sector’s interests and has weakened the process of prior consultation established by the ILO, allowing mining operations to contaminate water sources in benefit of mining ventures. It’s outrageous how this law has deepened the abuse of water sources by mining operations, obliging farmers and many families to leave their lands;
- The official policies and decrees aimed at doubling the agricultural GDP, which cause the massive deforestation of our forests and thousands of forest fires.
- Instead, we demand substantial investment and serious efforts to strengthen the conservation of the water cycle, and public water management that is responsible, efficient, democratic, fair, participative and free of prebendalism, nepotism, corruption and negligence.
- A responsible, quick, diligent and efficient response to the water crisis that ensures the health and security of the people, and provides clean and potable water, without excesses of chlorine, and free from contamination and microorganisms that are dangerous for health.
- A public and transparent audit with international observers from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the Pan American Health Organization, into the Bolivian state organizations of the Public Social Water and Sanitation Company (EPSAS), the Authority of Oversight and Social Control of Potable Water and Sanitation (AAPS), the Ministry of Environment and Water, and into the State itself – into how the state has foreseen the problem, how the problem was generated, and how the state has responded to this water crisis. We are not interested in investigation only into public officials of lesser rank, which only frees the heads of state from responsibility in this conflict, nor are we interested in useless parliamentary questions which do not lead to an improvement in management. There must be responsibilities established at different levels of the executive as an indispensible part of the functions of public servants, obliged to be accountable to the people, and they must face the possibility of legitimate sanctions if they do not comply. Their work must be efficient, transparent and free from negligence.
- Compensation from the State to citizens for the harm caused by the lack of necessary state precautions despite their knowledge of the imminent crisis, especially as water is a fundamental human right established in the Political Constitution of the State of Bolivia.
- That priority is given to policies that protect our forests, against deforestation, and for the restoration of our ecosystems, aquifers and water sources, giving special attention to areas that urgently require decontamination of rivers and lakes, and that the state avoids falling into false and rushed solutions that affect living ecosystems negatively, but instead taking responsibility for sustainable and integral solutions.
We call for active and committed citizen participation in the fulfillment of the human right to water as a public good that must not fall into the hands of corporate privatization nor the abusive and negligent use of the State. We call for the promotion of citizen actions responsible to the principle of water as a common and act in solidarity for the care and the conservation of this vital source of life in order to carry out in practice the principle of water as a universal human right.
Political Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia:
Article 16 I. Every person has the right to water and food. II. The State has the obligation to guarantee food security, by means of healthy, adequate and sufficient food for the entire population. (These are of the most fundamental of Rights)
Article 373 I. Water constitutes a fundamental right for life, within the framework of the sovereignty of the people. The State shall promote the use and access to water on the basis of principles of solidarity, complementarity, reciprocity, equity, diversity and sustainability.
Article 374 I. The State shall protect and guarantee the priority use of water for life. It is the duty of the State to manage, regulate, protect and plan the adequate and sustainable use of water resources, with social participation, guaranteeing access to water for all the habitants.