Flowing Towards La Moneda: Earth Day March for Water Rights

This Monday, April 22nd is Earth Day, and Chile is choosing to celebrate by demanding the defense and recovery of its water. For 32 years water has been privately managed, resulting in the devastation of hydrological systems, water shortages, contamination and the reduction of rivers that are vital to agriculture. The Carnival Earth Day March at La Moneda will demand a reunification of the water and the land, as well as the end of private gain from a resource that should be available to all.

 Pascua River in Patagonia (photo: National Geographic)
Pascua River in Patagonia (photo: National Geographic)

The upcoming march surges out of a greater movement that spans from Arica in the North to Tierra del Fuego in the South. More than 80 groups from rural areas in all regions of Chile have come together to organize the demonstration. They define themselves as social and environmental groups, not political parties.

The march is a call to action. The official declaration calls for people to mobilize, inform themselves and demand that political candidates be involved in the movement.

 Flyer: Por la Recuperación y Defensa del Agua website
Flyer: Por la Recuperación y Defensa del Agua website

Why has the situation become so dire? The movement attributes itself to a “wall of profit” that allows companies to control access to water and sell it to whoever offers the highest bid. The declaration states that water companies are selling Chile’s water to “large extractive groups that need water to take our forests, our land, our minerals and our rivers.” This means that having water under the control of extractive industries is degrading the Chilean landscape and lifestyle. The protest, referred to as “a moral imperative,” aims to destroy this wall that separates the people from their water.

The "wall of profit" has been strengthened by various pieces of legislation. The 1981 Water Code made water private property. The Binacional Mining Treaty, ratified in 2001, handed over the glacial water basins to transnational mining companies. The movement contends that these laws demonstrate the government’s indifference to the health of Chile’s ecosystems, the preservation of life, and the defense of the common good.

The march, which is officially named National Carnaval March for the Defense and Recovery of Water, has six main demands for Monday’s storm of the presidential palace. They include collective property, community management, the repeal of privatizing legislation, an end to private profit, “laws for life” and institutional restructuring. For more information, check out the official declaration online .

 Photo: Por la Recuperación y Defensa del Agua website
Photo: Por la Recuperación y Defensa del Agua website

What is the significance of April 22nd? This year it will mark the 43rd Earth Day. Earth Day began in 1970 as an environmental teach-in on college campuses in the United States, where extended lectures and discussion were held about environmental topics. Since then Earth Day has expanded and is now an internationally celebrated event. In 1990, an organizer launched programs in 141 countries. Today, the Earth Day Network organizes celebrations in 192 countries to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

This year, Chile chooses to demand protection of its water. The march will begin at 10:00am at the Universidad de Santiago (Libertador Bernardo O´higgins #3363) and proceed to La Moneda at 12:00 noon. Groups from the North and South of Chile will start their marches this Saturday the 20th. Full trajectories of the demonstrations can be found in the link below.

Marcha Carnaval Nacional por la Defensa y Recuperación del Agua
April 22, 2013
12:00 noon, La Moneda

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