El Salvador to regulate for clean water in the wake of mining ban and ISDS case

16 May 2018: The Salvadoran Church’s vocal support of a law to regulate access to clean water is good news for all Salvadorans fighting to protect their right to water and public services.

In 2016, El Salvador declared a national water shortage emergency. The country is still facing a water scarcity crisis, and government data shows nearly 1.5 million Salvadorans cannot access potable water. 90 per cent of El Salvador’s water supply is contaminated, and undrinkable.

Salvadorans have a long history of fighting to protect their water supply from contamination through mining. The Law against Metallic Mining, approved last year, was the result of over a decade of community and civil society struggle.

AFTINET has previously  reported the ISDS case of OceanaGold (or Pacific Rim), a Canadian-Australian mining company that tried to sue the El Salvador government for US $301 million before a World Bank tribunal, because it refused a permit for a gold mine that would have contaminated 60 per cent of the population’s drinking water.

Although OceanaGold lost the case, El Salvador had to spend over $12 million defending themselves. This shows how ISDS can be used to undermine public health policies like access to clean water.