Mexican lawmakers were to vote on a bill on March 10 to allow full or partial concessions to private companies to operate, preserve, maintain, rehabilitate, modernize or expand water infrastructure built by the federal government.
Lawmakers from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National Action Party (PAN) and the PRI associated Green Party (PVEM) of the joint Committee on Water and Sanitation, and Water Resources of the country’s House of Representatives approved the General Water Bill unanimously.
However, the vote on the bill permitting the distribution and construction of water infrastructure by private companies could not take place as scheduled, and was deferred indefinitely.
The Mexican daily, La Jornada, reports that the Act was aimed at benefiting the controversial private construction company Grupo Higa, which has won multi-million dollar public works contracts from federal and state governments, and is also accused of making illicit deals with Mexico’s scandal-ridden President, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Critics claim that the new initiative favors water use for fracking, allows inheritance of water concessions, violates international treaties and flouts the rulings of the World Health Organization (the WHO sets the minimum amount of water needed per person for basic existence at 100 liters per day), promotes the displacement and death of rivers, and accentuates inequality in access to water by raising tariffs.
Members of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Citizens Movement Party and Regeneration Movement Party (MORENA), call the decision regressive. The Union of Concerned Scientists in Mexico condemned the lack of transparency in the approval process for the legislation and insisted that the bill violates Article 4 of the Mexican Constitution, according to which: “Everyone has the right to access, provision and sanitation of water for personal and domestic consumption as sufficient, safe, acceptable and affordable. The State guarantees this right”.
Water for All, a group of activists, submitted the General Water Law to the Senate on February 24; the citizen-proposed initiative guarantees access to water as a human right, ensures preferential use of water by indigenous people, and provides measures to end the vulnerability of the population to droughts and floods caused by the inadequate management of watersheds. The group wants the lawmakers to adopt their version in the country’s favor.
However, PRI deputy Manlio Fabio Beltrones is in no mood to relent. Describing those who called the initiative regressive as “slow learners”, Fabio said that the approval process for the initiative was suspended because “some politicians in campaign want to take it as a banner and run with it”.