New Water Law Endangers Cuban Natural ResourcesDecember 27, 2016 | Print |
Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban parliament will approve a new law which will try to organize national water resource management, and adjust it to the economic model that has been sponsored by the elite in power.
The document hopes to draw out an “integrated and sustainable” approach to using these resources, and will seek to “maximize economic and social wellbeing, without compromising vital ecosystems and their health and conservation.”
It also recognizes the right to access to drinking water as a “fundamental human right”, and addresses the “rational use and reuse of water resources.”
It obliges the Ministry of Public Health to “continue to monitor activity to ensure that laws are being complied with in drainage and sewage management” and obliges local governments to “work towards the protection of inland waters and to reduce their pollution.”
However, we know that these words are fitting in any speech, and even come out of the mouth of Donald Trump himself.
Back in September 2013, I reported in Havana Times about a new bottled mineral water plant, using Italian technology, which had begun to operate using water from springs in Guantanamo’s mountains, under the commercial name “Sierra Canasta”.
According to information which the newspaper Trabajadores (*) published at the time, the plant’s potential would enable “it to win a place in th markets of countries located in the Caribbean basin,” and therefore, views to export came from then. Maybe it was only some small adjustments which will now be covered in the new legislation.
It’s significant that the law establishes in Article 23.1 that property which makes up “State hydraulic heritage” is “public property”, but its use is limited. Therefore, you can “walk, stay alongside, bathe, fish, sail and do other things which don’t require water works or installations,” except for when the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources says so.
However, in Article 25, we figure out what this is all really about: from now on “the transfer of state hydraulic heritage assets and rights as a contribution in any way to international economic associations or for making up non-governmental bodies.”
Private individuals or legal entities will be able to secure rights so as to manage inland waters, according to Article 26.1, which doesn’t bode too well for ecosystems, given the fact that, according to the order of priorities of use, ecological balance (**) is in 7th place:
- human use;
- animal use;
- agricultural irrigation and food industry;
- other industries;
- aquaculture in dams or ponds and shrimp farming;
- ecological balance; and,
- recreational use
Further on in the document, in Article 49, the process to give licenses to manage our waters to any form of foreign investment is also detailed, including the exploitation of mineral water sources.
In such a way that the idea of exporting Cuban water has already taken shape. In fact, the new economic system of inland waters collects “revenue of exporting products, services and technical assistance linked to inland waters.”
This law, like all of those which involve natural resources in Cuba, includes the privileges for the military on the island, under Special Conditions: “the application of conditions established in this present Law will be in line with the needs of the ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.”
If we also already know that these forces are settled in and have control of natural areas where valuable water sources are found, and that they take and manage these resources in a non-transparent way, we can guess the lucrative benefits they will receive now that they have legal protection.
The Cuban East has suffered from systematic droughts for decades, where the natural process of desertification is even taking place. If we add to this strip mining activities, deforestation, and now the potential business opportunity with national water sources, the landscape is looking particularly dry there in the near future.
(**) Ecological balance: entails water expenditure in dams and diversions, needed to sustain ecosystems in terms of water flow and conditions needed for biodiversity.