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Colombian congress invalidates citizen water initative

Comité Promotor del Referendo por el Agua – Apr 24, 2009

Yesterday, in a session of the First Commission of the Congress, a governmental majority approved a text contrary to the citizen water iniative supported by more than two million Colombians.

The substance of the modifications is the following:

  • The consecration of water a fundamental human right was eliminated.
  • The recognition of water a common good and public good was removed.
  • The priority use of water by ecosystems essential for the water cycle was removed.
  • The prohibition on the privatisation of the management of water and sewerage services, and the requirement for its management on a not-for-profit basis were removed.
  • They added a great distortion: to make it constitutional that “waters which rise and fall in the same estate”, are private, in this way imposing an exception to the principle that all the waters (of the nation) are public commons. This provides for water to become the property of the new, illegitimate, private owners of the large estates which are a product of the displacement of more than four million peasants.
  • In contrast with the previous change, they removed the provision for waters which run through ethnic territories to form an integral part thereof.
  • They adjusted in a demagogic manner the proposal for a universal minimum subsistence amount of free water, to disingenuously declare this minimum subsistence amount would only be directed at the poorest, and within the current legal framework of the private provision of public services.

The modifications were agreed in the Presidential Palace during a meeting of the governmental parties with President Uribe. The same President, who has radically opposed himself to our referendum for the human right to water, suddenly changed his position to propose that it would be the public who decide, but based upon a text totally different to that signed to more than two million people.

Given this reality, the National Committee in Defense of Water and Life which promotes the referendum invites the people to continue mobilising in defense of the original text of the referendum and to remain alert to the debate in the Plenary of the Congress wherein the appeal presented by the Spokesperson of the Committee of Promoters, that the original text be respected, will be decided.

The Committee of Promoters of the referendum thanks the eight congresspersons of the Liberal Party and Polo Democratico Alternativo, and the two from Cambio Radical who voted in favour of the approval of the text in its original form.

This national and regional fight is beginning to bring us towards the recognition of water as a common good, a public good and as a fundamental human right in the national constitution; but only sustained, common actions by all of us, will prevent the waters from becoming muddied, controlled and converted into a private business venture.


Rafael Colmenares (Spokesperson), Oscar Eduardo Gutiérrez, Martha Cañon, Javier Marquez, Rodrigo Acosta, Humberto Polo, Héctor Gañan, Tatiana Roa y Cristo Miranda.

April 23 de 2009

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