The Columban JPIC Office in Chile was part of a coalition and a key leader in the efforts to organize an Earth Week March and Carnival to Recuperate Water Rights. More than 100 organizations and 6000 people participated in the peaceful march. People marched for up to ten miles in a joyful carnival atmosphere.
In 1981 under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Chile privatized its water by granting the state the right to grant water use rights to companies free of charge and in perpetuity. Today logging companies and mining companies are two of the largest consumers of Chile’s water. A March 2013 Chilean Supreme Court decision affirmed this right by ruling it was not illegal for a mining company to not pay for extracting groundwater on land it had been granted under concession because it was merely “exploring” for minerals in the water, rather than “exploiting” the water.
Columbans in Chile and their partner organizations are calling for community and public control of the water based on the prioritization of water for life, human needs and ecosystems.