Moratorium on water projects proposed in Panama

The legislative initiative suggests closing the valve on concessions for water projects for at least three years.

As part of Earth Day celebrations on April 20, Panama's Commission on Population and Environment has announced support for a legislative initiative proposing a moratorium on the granting of water concessions nationally, according to a statement by the country's National Assembly. 

The legislation was proposed by Chiricano National Assembly Deputy Jose Luis Castillo, who believes that the nation's current water priorities are due for a reversal. 

As it stands, Castillo said, water in Nicaragua is used primarily for hydroelectric projects, then for agricultural irrigation projects, and lastly for human consumption. In his home province, he reported that hydroelectric dam proliferation has caused a drop in water levels. He told his fellow Assembly members that he believes water should first be allocated to meet population demand before being used for agricultural needs. Electricity production, in his view, should rank last on the priority list. 

According to Castillo, 90 percent of water use currently stems from hydroelectric projects, with the remaining 10 percent divided among agricultural use and personal consumption. 

“It is unfortunate that this vital fluid, rather than bringing harmony, has generated situations of conflict over the years between communities and the government,” he said.

The bill, Draft Number 146, was unanimously approved by the National Assembly. It now awaits executive branch approval.

According to the most recent draft of the bill, only concessions contracts that were previously committed to by the government, agricultural projects certified by MIDA, concessions related to rural and domestic water infrastructure development, and ongoing projects requiring renewal or extension will be approved.