Modatima, the Movement for Water and Territory (MAT) and the Coordination of Territories for the Defence of Glaciers worked together on a proposal of articles that were sent today to the Technical Secretariat of the Constitutional Convention. Once approved, it will have to collect 15,000 signatures from citizens in order to be discussed.

With more than a thousand signatures from social and territorial organisations from Arica to Magallanes, the proposal for a popular initiative for a constituent norm “For water, the rights of nature and glaciers” was submitted on Monday 3 January.

The proposal, prepared jointly by the MAT, Modatima and the Coordination of Territories for the Defence of Glaciers, reflects the historical demands of socio-environmental movements on this issue and covers all processes of the water cycle, especially the role of the State in ensuring the priority use for the recovery, restoration and regeneration of ecosystems and human rights of water, something that does not exist today as it is considered a commodity.

To this end, the constitutional norm – which would be discussed in the Constitutional Convention’s commission on the Environment, Rights of Nature, Natural Commons and Economic Model – establishes, among other things, the definition of water and its sources as in-appropriable natural common goods, and the Rights of Nature, as well as the regulation of any anthropic extractive or industrial activity that could alter the water cycle. It also postulates the redistribution of existing water rights ensuring the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation and defines glaciers as unmanageable and non-tradable natural goods. The proposed regulation establishes that glaciers and their environments must be fully protected, as they are currently one of the water bases of a large part of the territory, which is suffering from drought and scarcity.

From the MAT, Nicolás Quiroz assures that “this initiative seeks to consecrate nature as a subject of rights, establish water as an in-appropriable natural common good, strengthen community water management by river basins, create a nature ombudsman to protect and restore ecosystems and thus move towards overcoming the extractivism that has generated death and destruction in the territories”.

Stefanía Vega, from the Coordination of Territories for the Defence of Glaciers, affirms that the proposal seeks “the recognition of nature as a subject of rights, in order to protect and restore the different ecosystems, damaged by mercantilist management, which has favoured small groups of power over the good life of the people. We also seek to compensate the damage to glaciers and their environments, whose protection is a historical demand raised by the different territories, particularly those who have experienced the extractive siege, affecting this imposing and fragile ecosystem, essential for life, as natural coolers of the planet, sources of permanent water, especially in times of drought and scarcity, and that today are configured as the most important water support of the central valleys and ecosystems, constituting a fundamental guarantee for the respect of human rights and social rights”.

The Constituent Assembly Member for District 6 and member of Modatima, Carolina Vilches, says that “those of us who are part of the environmental social movement are excited to begin this year 2022 with the popular initiative of a norm that manifests the historic struggle for environmental justice. The people, organisations and communities that are part of these movements and who are presenting this initiative are those who live day to day with environmental injustice, the climate emergency and this irrational water model that we have in Chile”.

For Constanza San Juan, a member of the Constituent Assembly, this initiative “was born out of grassroots socio-environmental movements with extensive territorial representation and who have been defending life and the commons for years. Here they managed to bring all their experience to bear, thus strengthening their participation in this process, and gave life to a norm that offers forceful solutions to a neuralgic point of the crisis that has us writing a new Constitution: the abuse and violation of human rights and ecosystems in the territories”.

“The proposed law enshrines Nature as a subject of rights, deprivatises water and declares it a common good, and determines the protection and preservation of all glaciers and their environments. These are essential measures, since a new Constitution will be useless without living and healthy ecosystems that sustain a dignified society and the good life we are aiming for”, adds the representative of district 4.

Gloria Alvarado, also a member of the Convention and representative of Modatima, emphasises the historic nature of the process and the interest of citizens and social organisations in promoting popular constituent norms. Regarding this particular proposal, she assures that “it is a long-standing demand of socio-environmental organisations, because since 1980 water has been considered a commodity, its cycles have not been respected and the most vulnerable communities have been left without water, which is tragic in this context of climate emergency. Nature’s rights have not been considered in our legislation and the new Constitution will seek to guarantee this”.

Finally, Camila Zárate, a member of the MAT, said that the drama of the drought in the country “is not a problem of false solutions, of water highways, reservoirs or deeper wells, it is a problem of distribution, of inequality, of an economic model that handed over the governance of an essential element for life to the market. This regulation takes charge of changing that model”. She adds that the proposal “puts the ecosystemic approach at the centre, the priorities of use and changes the legal category of water, with a vision of protection, community management and governance of the people.

Once the proposal has passed through the Technical Secretariat of the Constitutional Convention, it will be made available to the public in order to reach the minimum 15,000 signatures needed for it to be discussed. There is a deadline of February 1st to sign the proposal.