Uruguay: UN criticism of drought management

A group of UN experts questioned the handling of the water crisis by the Government of Luis Lacalle Pouwhen pointing out that it should give priority to household consumption over that of companies, in addition to pointing out that the recommendation to use bottled water creates a risk of “de facto privatization of water”.

Given the problems caused by the drought in Uruguay, which caused the quality of the water distributed in Montevideo and surrounding areas to decrease, with a sharp increase in salinity, human rights experts pointed out that the country “must prioritize human consumption” and they remembered that The crisis affects 60% of the country’s population.

Vulnerable groups

“The continuous decrease in water quality due to the increase in salinity levels in its composition is alarming. This situation significantly affects vulnerable groups, such as children and adolescents, pregnant women and people suffering from chronic diseases,” they pointed out in a letter. .

The reserves of the dam Severine Passfrom where fresh water is extracted to make it drinkable and provide its consumption to Montevideo and the metropolitan area, registered historical lows due to the lack of rain.

The drought, added to the lack of planning and investment by the Executive, led the authorities to complete the supply by pumping water from the Río de la Plata with high salinitywhich caused the increase of chlorides and sodium in the water supplied to the population, exceeding the maximum allowed by the standard that defines drinking water.

The UN experts indicated that the government recommended “reducing household water consumption”, but “these restrictions do not apply to large-scale consumers, including industries that use water for production.”

“Businesses, including state-owned companies, have a responsibility to respect human rights at all times and states have an obligation to ensure the protection of this right by guaranteeing universal access to safe drinking water, including during emergencies,” they said, as reproduced by the local newspaper La Diaria.

In addition, they pointed out that the authorities’ recommendation that the population consume bottled water “creates a risk of de facto privatization of water for human consumption, forcing the population to buy water.”

For this reason, they expressed their concern about the situation of people who have more difficulties in accessing it, both due to economic and mobility problems, although they stressed that the government has decided to reduce taxes on bottled water.

The “malaise” in the Uruguayan government

The UN letter caused discomfort in the Uruguayan government and the Secretary of the Presidency, Álvaro Delgado, summoned two representatives of the organization to the headquarters of the Government on Thursday night, to whom he expressed his “deep discontent” according to the newspaper El País.

The Uruguayan Ministry of Foreign Relations issued a statement in response in which it stated that the sodium values ​​in the water up to now “They are not considered alarming, since the authorized increase in order to ensure the supply has been evaluated by the health and academic authorities.”

The Foreign Ministry pointed out that the water provided by the state company OSE “still drinkable” for “the vast majority” of the population “with the exception of some special groups with greater vulnerability in the excessive consumption of salt”.

In addition, he recalled that the beneficiaries of the Ministry of Social Development receive financial support for the purchase of 60 liters of bottled water per month.

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