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Environmental organization REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay joined the international celebrations of Blue October last Thursday. Blue October is a month of global celebration of the human right to water. The organization warned that the water reform adopted in Uruguay on October 31, 2004, is not being implemented.
Last Thursday was the 9th anniversary of the water referendum promoted in Uruguay by the National Commission in Defense of Water and Life (CNDAV), which comprised social organizations and trade unions, including REDES-FoE Uruguay. The referendum amended article 47 of the National Constitution, by 64% of the votes, to consider water as a basic human right. The amendment also provides that human consumption of water should be prioritized, that water and sanitation services in the country have to be in public hands, and the need to secure the sustainable management of basins and citizen participation in it.
In a press release issued in Thursday, REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay underlines that nine years after the historic victory “people’s will continues to be completely ignored by the capitalist system in the rural areas, through the implementation of agribusiness. The fast advance of soy and forestation in the country, which occupy nearly two million hectares of land, threaten the quality and quantity of our water resources and, therefore, our human right to water”.
The Uruguayan organization claims that tree and soy monoculture plantations “and the exclusive model” have affected family farmers all over the country, which have been forced to leave their lands.
The last agriculture production survey held in Uruguay in 2011 found that over 11,000 farms of 1 to 99 hectares were lost between 2000 and 2011.
“Besides, the current agriculture expansion has been characetrized by the application of technological packages, which include the growing use of agrotoxics to the detriment of sustainable territories and people’s health”.
“There are more and more reports of schools and small towns being fumigated, affecting children, teachers and local residents”, says REDES.
Some of Uruguay’s main water basins are polluted with agrotoxics, including the Santa Lucia basin, which provides drinking water to nearly 60% of the country’s population. “The human right to water, and the priority of human consumption of water are not being respected”.
In June of 2013, the CNDAV sent an article to the Taskforce on the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights, where they recommended the Uruguayan state to take the following actions to protect the human right to water:
Take action to guarantee access to good quality water through the sustainable management of the territory and water basins, by prioritizing human consumption above all.
- To ban the use of agrotoxics with negative effects on water quality and human health in strategic basins for water supply.
To secure the active participation of the people affected by water pollution in the management and control of the water basins. - To establish clear mechanisms to complain and obtain a quick response to fumigation or contamination of natural resources.
To come up with mechanisms of protection and claims by communities whose human rights have been violated by the use of agrotoxics.
The press release concludes: “As a member of the CNDAV, REDES-FoE Uruguay supports these recommendations made to the Uruguayan State and demands the effective citizen participation in water management and control”.
“Este triunfo de Uruguay debe ser un llamado urgente a analizar, revisar, renegociar o anular cuando corresponda todos los tratados bilaterales de comercio y de protección de inversiones que ha suscrito el país, antes de exponernos a nuevas demandas en las que podemos correr con distinta suerte que en la recién finalizada”.
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