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10 years after the Constitutional Reform that ended with the privatization of water in Uruguay, the participants of the mobilization days that set a precedent in Latin America made an assessment and pointed out that the peoples´ participation in the management and control of the water resource is a challenge still pending.
At the end of October, 2004, coinciding with Uruguay´s presidential elections, 65% of the Uruguayan population approved a constitutional amendment that broke with the accelerated drinking water and sanitation privatization process in that country.
The reform included the declaration of water as a public resource and that the State should ensure universal access to this resource for the whole population, before the 2010 UN declaration of water as a human right.
In addition, it raised the need for participatory planning, management and control of water, which would translate into the creation of territorial basin commissions, the passing of a law on national water policies (that became a reality in 2009) and a Water Resources National Plan. This Plan has not been created yet, said Marcel Achkar, PhD, member of REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay and the Sustainable Uruguay Program, in a public exchange held in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Reform and in the framework of Blue October.
Achkar believes that the participation spaces included in the reform have become merely "figurative" and that not advancing in the legislation that complements the reform has enabled an indirect privatization of water through the increasing foreignization of lands that are the sources of water.
The researcher, professor and activist also said that one can´t disassociate the defense of water as a public resource from the "set of related natural resources". He also criticized the fact that the control of water is referred in general to "teledetection" mechanisms, since "in Uruguay there is a long way for this tool to be sufficient and territorial control is always necessary".
Even though he agrees that the 2004 reform set an important precedent in terms of
putting water management and control in the agenda of the popular and workers movement, Achkar said that the text could have been more specific, so now we would have more legal and political tools to protect water basins from other threats such as agricultural intensifiction or large-scale forestry.
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