BUSINESS NEWS AMERICAS: Costa Rican constitutional reform would protect water resources

June 8, 2010
Indiana Corrales

Costa Rica's congress is discussing a bill to modify the country's constitution to identify water as a natural resource for public use, Christian democrat party PUSC congressman Jose Roberto Rodriguez told BNamericas.

The bill, presented by Rodriguez, aims to modify section 14 of article 121, to ratify that water must be controlled by the state, and cannot be obtained by private firms.

The main purpose of the bill is to avoid excessive exploitation of the country's abundant water reserves, according to Rodriguez.

"Many countries and organizations are interested in privatizing water. We must stop this because it is not convenient for our country, because it would leave communities in a very bad situation," Rodriguez said.

Costa Rica's current constitution defines water as a public resource. However, this definition must be ratified to avoid the exploitation of loopholes in the law, according to Rodriguez.

"With time, the state could lose control over water resources. We need to understand that access to water is a human right and therefore cannot be negotiated," Rodriguez said.

Congress will decide whether or not to approve the modification in a month's time, Rodriguez said, adding that the bill is facing competition from other proposals to change the water law.

"Some political parties are proposing the use of water by the private sector for the agricultural, industrial and energy sectors. By doing this, they are opening the doors for the state to lose its control over water resources," he added.

Costa Rica would not be the first Latin American country to explicitly define water as a public resource. A similar measure was signed into law in Peru earlier this year, and Honduras passed a law defining water as a human right in 2009.