Crying out in unison, “Water is not sold! Water is defended!” about 50 members of the El Llano community of Santa Cruz greeted President Luis Guillermo Solis on July 24th when he visited the town’s community hall accompanied by the executive president of AyA, Yamileth Astorga, and the Minister of Environment and Energy (MINAE), Edgar Gutierrez.
The purpose of the meeting was to listen to the problems of water shortage in Santa Cruz and also to clear up doubts about the government’s project to exploit the Nimboyores aquifer, located in the community of Lorena, in the northeastern part of the canton.
Astorga stated that part of what the Nimboyores management plan seeks to accomplish is to guarantee that there is no excessive water use and safeguard the liquid both for the communities and the business sector.
“We can never let happen what happened in Huacas-Tamarindo, where uncontrolled growth was allowed, the growth of projects without water availability permits. It’s not right. It cant be done. The water is limited,” commented the president of AyA.
“If, 15 years ago, they wanted to exploit the Nimboyores aquifer without knowledge, it was irresponsible, but now, it would be irresponsible if we are not thinking about a sustainable management…. I know that you are afraid to use that water thinking about the future, but the severest drought crisis is being seen today. Are we going to continue to have water reservoirs when there is a water crisis in Guanacaste, having water there?” she added.
But the residents who came to the meeting don’t approve of exploiting the aquifer. Jaqueline Ruiz, a resident of Lorena, commented that the townspeople do have water but it is the hotels that lack it.
“In Lorena, we don’t have water problems, but if the ASADAs (water boards) had problems, we would be the first to support them. I think about the children. This water has to be taken care of for future generations,” Ruiz remarked.
Marie Cecile Beal, from the Institute of Oceanology, who also came to the meeting, stated that there is enough water in Santa Cruz but it is poorly distributed and therefore, there is no need to exploit Nimboyores.
“Currently there is a lot of disorder with the Huacas-Tamarindo aquifer. Most of the water is distributed to hotels and not to the townspeople. We think they should close all of the illegal wells. We don’t know how many thousands of them exist. For years, we have demanded that AyA close the wells,” Beal specified.
Members of the Federation of National University Students (FEUNA- Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad Nacional) also joined the protest.
The president of the republic, who spoke at the end of the meeting after listening to the residents invited the community to participate in the process of developing the management plan for the aquifer, which is being done in conjunction with the ASADAs, universities, public institutions and private companies.
Solis said that water is needed to develop the canton and the communities in general, not just for tourism but also for any type of investment that needs to be made.
“If we guarantee water to communities and at the same time do not guarantee sources of employment, we are messed up. What do we do with a population that has water to drink and does not have work to live? Where will they get a salary from?” said the president.
Finally, the president ended his speech committing to ensuring that water is a right that all of the townspeople have. “Nor does it have to be that the people here have a job at a hotel that receives tourists from outside and don’t have water when they get home. That isn’t right either,” he said.
President Luis Guillermo Solís at El Llano de Santa Cruz, July 24, 2015.