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The social irresponsibility of Aguas Araucanía

The social irresponsibility of Aguas Araucanía

By Matias Meza

The treatment of sewage in the Araucanía region is a serious problem. In fact, the national average of treatment coverage amounts to 81% of the wastewater, while in this area of ​​the country it reaches only 15%, making it one of the most backward in the country.

Aguas Araucanía and the Social Irresponsibility of the Company: its methods in Mapuche territory

Sewage treatment plants: a remedy worse than the disease?

The treatment of sewage in the Araucanía region is a serious problem. In fact, the national average of treatment coverage amounts to 81% of the wastewater, while in this area of ​​the country it reaches only 15%, making it one of the most backward in the country. The remaining 85% is dumped directly into lakes, rivers and coasts of the region, threatening people's health, the development of agriculture and biodiversity.


In this context, the company Aguas Araucanía S.A., controlled by the Solari group, won the tender to carry out the 2005-2006 sewage treatment program in the region [1] , which includes the installation of 17 Sewage Treatment Plants (WWTP). Despite the obvious need to reverse this situation, the company has encountered strong opposition from social organizations and Mapuche. These have denounced that the plants that are being installed are primary and chemically assisted, so they are highly polluting [2] . In addition, the Supreme Court ruled a protection appeal stating the illegality in which the company has incurred when entering the projects into the environmental impact system, since it has denied the existence of human communities close to the PTAS in order to avoid citizen participation and possible mitigation measures [3] . Even CONADI, the government body in charge of protecting indigenous communities, has made gross mistakes when affirming the non-existence of neighboring communities to the Botrolhue (Temuco) and Nueva Toltén (Colico) projects or the fact that the communities were previously consulted (Lonquimay ). On the other hand, the underlying racism in the location of the Plants has been evidenced, since all of these are projected to be in Mapuche territory and nothing has been consulted with them, thus destroying the internationally recognized rights of Indigenous Peoples. [4] .

Illegality and unconstitutionality in Nueva Toltén

Now we will review the case of the Eugenio Cienfuegos Mapuche Community, located in the Colli Ko sector, Nueva Toltén commune, where the company has installed a new PTAS, flagrantly violating the principle of good faith, legality and the community's collective rights. referred to as the individual rights of its members.

The Eugenio Cienfuegos community is particularly poor. Originally it was the owner of about 800 hectares but today its members must subsist on less than 50, due to the encroachments that have been subjected in the last century. Located 1 kilometer from Nueva Toltén, the community lacks potable water. When certain jobs began in the community in mid-2005, everyone thought that the mayor was finally fulfilling his recently reaffirmed promise to give them access to it. Some time later, a poster appeared announcing the construction at the site of a new Sewage Treatment Plant for Araucanía. The Community began to ask for explanations. They found out that this type of construction required an Environmental Impact Study (EIA) since being so close to human communities could be dangerous. In addition, the EIA implied that they be consulted and compensated for the damages that the work will cause. When they asked COREMA for information, it pointed out that the study was not carried out because the company had indicated in an affidavit that there were no communities surrounding the sector in which it was intended to build the PTAS. Even CONADI had affirmed that there were no indigenous communities there. In other words, the state body in charge of promoting the integral development of indigenous communities said that they did not exist. In this way, the company, as in the cases of Putué and Temuco, blatantly violated the principle of good faith that governs the Environmental Impact Assessment System enshrined in Law 19300, in order to avoid citizen participation and eventual mitigation measures. and compensation.

This whole situation is even more serious when it is found that the PTAS is located in the middle of Ngillatuhue or Nguillatun field, a sacred place where the Mapuche communities perform their main spiritual and ritual ceremonies and that it cannot be used for a different use than that. This type of territory is protected by indigenous law, both for its character of inalienable indigenous land, and for its culturally valuable character. [5] . In this way, the company profoundly violates the spirituality of the community and calls into question even the survival of its cultural specificity, violating its constitutional right to freedom of worship.

All of this motivated CONADI itself to file a protection appeal in favor of the community, similar to the one filed in favor of the Putué community in Villarrica. Today they hope that the case will be heard and accepted by the Temuco Court of Appeals.

The problem of impunity or unlimited arrogance

The irregularities are not limited to those already described, which have been distinctive of Aguas Araucanía's actions in the Region. They go further and continue. Here we will see two situations that afflict families that border the Plant.

Doña Eliana Márquez accuses Aguas Araucanía of shamelessly taking advantage of the defenselessness of the community members due to their Mapuche character and poverty. She lives in a place that barely enough to cover her expenses, an issue that mattered little to the company that some time ago built a gravel road that goes from the Plant to the road, installing at the same time a fence of wood and wire of barb in their lands. According to Doña Eliana, the construction was never consulted. In addition, during this period, they cut down her firewood trees and destroyed a ditch that she had to evacuate the winter waters, which they only partially rebuilt, leaving it unusable and full of fallen trees (photo 2). Doña Eliana demanded an explanation from the company, which offered to make a new ditch and pay her 500 thousand pesos in kind of compensation for the trees but without removing them. However, this agreement has not been fulfilled. The agreement has not been paid and only a ditch of approximately 50 meters was made that does not have a drain to the Boldo river. They also blocked his way to the town, essential in winter time. Along with all this, they dug a hole in the middle of the road and installed a sewer cover. A few days ago they installed hoses in the hole in the road with which they extracted water of unknown quality and origin, flooding their land [6] .


Mrs. Eliana feels great helplessness in the face of the abuses in Aguas Araucanía. "They take advantage of it only because they see you poor and without a husband," he says.

Another situation of abuse is suffered by Doña Juana Penchulef, owner of a small place in the community. She entered into a lease on her home with Constructora Pérez-Castro, a subcontractor for Aguas Araucanía, to use it as an office. Doña Juana expressly requested that this be included in the contract since she used her small site as a farm. The contract was for 4 months until January 12, however the company operated continuously in the place until February 11 and thereafter irregularly. To date, the company has not paid the last two months of rent, much less the extra month that it used the facilities. Compounding the situation, the company used and continues to use the land as an entrance and exit area for trucks, cranes and other heavy vehicles, causing a great deal of damage such as rubble, shattered trees, debris and truck tracks. On the ground, we were able to verify that until today, February 22, the site was still occupied and the materials had not been removed (photo 1). In addition, the company destroyed access to the river, which before the lease was a beach and is now almost vertical. It is evident that this was done to install the sewer of the WWTP, which is right next to the boundary of the land. The chemically treated waters will be discharged on what was the beach of the family of Doña Juana, we do not know the composition of these. In addition, a water well (noria) was destroyed, which the company tried to rebuild in compensation, but which was left unfinished, constituting a real danger for the 4 children of Doña Juana.

Currently, the community has already suffered from bad odors from the PTAS. The Company's response was consistent with the attitude that has already made it famous in the region: how do you know that the odors come from the Plant? Doña Rosa Penchulef, president of the community, has a new concern. The WWTP is located right where the abundant rain-winter waters usually run. They fear that new construction will wreak havoc on neighboring sites this year.

What will Aguas Araucanía say if this happens? At this point we can imagine it.

This case reveals the dark side of modernization in Chile. We find that even the meager environmental legislation and insufficient indigenous law are not respected. Why talk about international regulations. However, communities are beginning to meet, advise and align with each other and with the organized sectors of Chilean civil society to assert their rights. In this way, a different future begins to be envisioned, with a sustainable development that respects the rights of people, Indigenous Peoples and the environment.

* By Matías Meza-Lopehandía G.
Observatory on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

[1
]
The Solari group, one of the most powerful in the country, acquired in mid-2004, the 30-year concession from the administration of the Araucanía state sanitation company (ESSAR) now called Aguas Araucanía. In this way, it took charge of the supply of drinking water and the collection and treatment of sewage in the Region for about 64 million dollars. So far, this economic group has been awarded long-term state concessions in some regions of Chile with hundreds of thousands of clients and tens of billions in annual sales, consolidating itself as one of the most important and powerful groups in this sector. (SEGUEL, Alfredo, Again environmental racism: Sewage in the Araucanía. Consulted online http://www.mapuexpress.net/?act=publications&id=133, on February 23, 2006.)
[2
]
SEGUEL, Alfredo, Sewage waters: the plants that come in Mapuche lands, consulted online http://www.mapuexpress.net/?act=publications&id=245, February 14, 2006.
[3
]
Mapuche community Pedro Ancalef and others against Aguas Araucanía.
[4
]
Even the Indigenous Law 19253 in force in the country, establishes in its article 34 the right to prior consultation that assists indigenous people in matters that affect their interests.
[5
]
Art. 12, 13 and 19 of Law 19253
[6
]
Similar situation occurred in the community of Huacha Huenulaf in Temuco with the same company. There is currently a lawsuit for damages.


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