Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

The Congress of Costa Rica approved in principle the Integrated Water Management Law

 

On Monday March 31st, the Congress of Costa Rica approved in principle the Integrated Water Management Law that had been introduced by environmental movements through the popular initiative modality in 2013, after 13 years of continuous struggle.

 

After a series of negotiations that included the Central Government, private sector, congressmen from most political parties and environmental organizations, the Environmental Commission of Congress reached an agreement about a consensus bill, that was rule affirmative the previous week and allowed the bill to be finally known at Plenary on Monday.

 

Right after 10:40 pm, 41 congressmen present at the moment voted affirmative for the law bill, approving it at first debate. On April 22nd the project will be hold for second debate and will render into a Law of the Republic once it is published in the official newspaper. Only 4 congressmen, all representing the Libertarian Movement (right wing) voted against the bill, despite the huge consensus reached.

 

The environmental organizations gathered around National Alliance for Water Defence (ANDA), the Federation for Nature Conservancy (FECON), and the Alliance of Environmental Networks (ARA), have stated their satisfaction  with the agreement reached, that contains the spirit, vision, contents and principals of the original text introduced as popular initiative and backed by more than 170 signatures of Costa Rican citizens.

 

Some of the characteristics of the new law are:

 

  • Recognizes water as a fundamental human right
  • Declares public domain of water and all associated forces
  • Closes all possibility of privatization of water supply services for human consumption.
  • Recognizes economic value of water in all uses, that way large water users will pay for associated social and environmental costs that nowadays is paid by all society.
  • Creates a modern and efficient protection areas system for recharge areas, underground waters, water sources and river causes that will protect vulnerable areas.
  • Establishes a 12 hydrological unit regionalization with a wide citizen participation.
  • Creates the National Water Direction (DINA) with river basin focus that is part of the Environmental Ministry. This ministry is by law in charge of the regulation, management and sustainable use of natural resources. DINA is a technical organism, non-political, with instrumental legal status.

 

The challenge for communities and environmental movements is  beginning. The hardest is yet to come, is to make effective this legal instrument, that must be complemented by a new community water management law and that so waited constitutional reform that would recognize water and sanitation as fundamental human rights and the public domain of the resource.