Establish the Human Right to Water


[Translation]  A draft of the revised General Water Law was presented yesterday by members of the Senate Water Resources Commission, the Morena parliamentary group on the Environment, the PT fraction in the Chamber of Deputies and the National Water for All Coordinating Committee. The drafting of this document reflects work carried out in hundreds of forums over more than nine years.

Among the innovations of this proposal are democratic water management bodies, instruments for the defense of water, regulation of water concessions, promotion of sustainable use, and respect for native peoples, ejidos and communities.

The presenters also urged Congress to convene an extraordinary session in order to issue a ruling and discuss this initiative, which is urgent not only because of its content, but also to put an end to almost a decade of non-compliance with the mandate to adjust the existing General Water Law to comply with the constitutional reform that in February 2012 established the human right to water.

During all this time we have lived a pretense, whereby water is a right enshrined in the Magna Carta, but the General Water Law enacted during the six-year term of Carlos Salinas de Gortari delivers this resource to the most voracious speculation and profit of national and foreign corporations, while promoting its commodification and preventing its management for the social good.

The heart of the current neoliberal law lies in the concession program that allows companies to appropriate water sources practically in perpetuity and at derisory costs.

The eagerness of Salinas, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña to surrender was such that between 1995 and 2019, allocations and concessions for water exploitation increased by 3,191%. Privatization was accompanied by hoarding, as 3,404 users concentrate 22% of the country's concessioned water; that is, 1.1 percent of the concessionaires take advantage of more than one-fifth of the resource.

The flip side of this unlimited access to water for a handful of companies can be seen in the lack of water suffered by the inhabitants of large areas of the country: according to the 2020 Population and Housing Census, 4.5 million people throughout Mexico do not have piped water in their homes, 585,000 of whom live in Chiapas, where more than 10% of the population does not have this service. As an example of the perverse effects of water privatization, the aforementioned entity faces the lack of water in homes, schools and health centers due to overexploitation by Femsa, Coca-Cola's bottling company; and it is no coincidence that Chiapas occupies the first place in the world in per capita consumption of this beverage.

To the problems of hoarding must be added those of water resource contamination, due to mining activities and irresponsible use by agribusiness, whose excessive use of pesticides contaminates water courses and phreatic mantles.

From what has been said, it is clear that it would be disastrous for the country to retain the law drafted during a period characterized by the depredation of common goods and private enrichment at the expense of the State and the social majorities. Putting an end to the incongruence between our highest law and the current norm is both an obligation of the legislators and an urgent social necessity, and it is to be hoped that the bill presented yesterday will be processed without further delay.