PETORCA – A private agricultural company was discovered stealing water through an illegal pipeline from the Petorca river in the Valparaíso region. The local mayor denounced the company on his Facebook account. A sensitive issue, as the area is suffering from severe drought.
The mayor of Petorca, Gustavo Valdenegro, denounced the presence of an illegal pipeline in Hierro Viejo, on his own Facebook account. The machine extracted water directly from the Petorca river, located in the Valparaíso region. This pipeline belonged to the agricultural company “El Peñón de Zapallar”.
In the Facebook publication, the mayor declared that the tube was found “in a land that is public property” and he mentioned that the company “doesn’t have any authorization from the municipality”. This Facebook post was shared by the “Movimiento de Defensa del Agua, la Tierra y la Protección del Medioambiente” (Modatima) who add that this case “is a confirmation of something which for years has been denounced”.
This isn’t the first time that “El Penón de Zapallar” is involved in an issue like this, because in 2018, the business was fined for similar events, after the municipality denounced illegal water extraction.
“Everything is a lie”
The owner of “El Peñón de Zapallar”, Daniel Bosch, responded in an interview in Cooperativa saying that “It is a lie”, clarifying that the firm “was moving water from a private property”. The association of agriculturists of Petorca, Agropetorca, supported Bosch in press release, calling the accusations of the mayor an “abuse of power”.
Even the Senator, Isabel Allende, responded via her Twitter account,asking the Chilean Government and The General Water Board to come undetake action in this case. No one has responded yet.
Q'acciones tomará la DGA y el Gob al denunciar Municipio de Petorca robo de agua por parte de una empresa agrícola? Incluso localidades como Quebrada de Castro se abastecen por camiones algibes.Hablé c/ Mto Int y se comprometió ayudar. Es inaceptable.— Isabel Allende Bussi (@iallendebussi) February 5, 2019
Severe drought in the region
The issue is exemplary for the drought that affects the zone for several years now, which has caused huge damage to the locality, harming especially the farmers. Rivers, lakes and swamps have dried up and the Petorca population even needs water trucks to supply them.
But this isn’t an isolated event, because drought has become a national crisis in Chile. According to information published in iagua, 72% of the land in Chile suffers from some level of drought. The same data states that 156 of the the 354 municipalities in Chile are in danger of desertification.
According to a report published by the World Resource Institute, Chile is one of the countries that “could face a significant increase in water stress by 2040”.
Who owns the water?
Water has been a widely discussed topic in the Chilean media after the announcement of the government, stating they will modify the Water Code, a legislation created by the previous administration of Michelle Bachelet.
This modification means that the rights of the water in private hands, currently given out for 30 years, will become indefinite. According to the minister of Public Works, the modification is “for the good use of the water”. At the same time he underlined there will be given fines to those who violate the code.
This declaration generated a public debate, because some people fear that the water has become a consumers good and not a human right. One of them is senator Alejandro Guillier, who via his Twitter account commented that this “violates the human rights” and also “allows abuse by unscrupulous businessmen”.
Likewise, the ex Minister of Public Works, Alberto Undurraga, in an interview with La Tercera said that this project “is protecting the businessmen”. He added that he thinks that this change will not be approved in Congress.
Nelson Quiroz is Chile Today´s photographer. He also writes about youth culture and fashion, and often contributes with photo series during marches and protests.