Colombians call on government to honour water referendum
More than 1000 Colombians demonstrated in the capital as part of international water week in order to reclaim water as a fundamental right.
On March 18 2009, Colombians demonstrated in support of a referendum on the right to water as part of International Water Week. More than 1000 people participated in the demonstration which included young people from universities and schools, environmentalists, trade unionists and neighbourhood communities from all over Bogota.
The demonstration’s strength and impact rested on the young people’s cultural expressions as they sought to reclaim water as a vital element of their territory and access to water as a fundamental right, far removed from the thinking promoted by transnational corporations and other private actors.
The march sent a strong message to the MPs who were discussing the Water Referendum Bill in the House of Representatives. The bill demands the enforcement of the popular decision, supported by over two million Colombians, to treat water as a fundamental human right for everyone.
However, while the Columbian congress is questioning the cost implied by the implementation of the proposal, delaying its approval, the figures of inequality in the country continue to rise. Nearly 53% of the rural population has no access to drinking water. In the capital alone, there are nearly one million people without access to water, because they cannot afford it.
Friends of the Earth Colombia/CENSAT demand the lawmakers reflect the citizen’s decision in the recent referendum and they encourage the national and international community to support this initiative and to continue moving forward in the building of a social and environmental movement that defends access to water as a fundamental human right.
On May 19 the Colombian congress ignored the will of the people and ‘modified’ the bill taking out the reference to water being a basic human right.
Rafael Colmenares from the Committee in Defence of Water and Life decalred that the popular initiative “no longer exists, it was blocked”
“We are not advocates of the referendum that will be voted on,” he continued, after two and a half years of efforts to gather signatures and raise awareness on the issue.”
In response the committee is studying possible legal actions to ensure that the original text of the bill is put before the legislative committe. Meanwhile, the Colombian citizens who signed the referendum calling for access to water for everyone, will once again take to the streets and demand that the will of the people is recognised.