San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Legislative Commission Approves Water Bill

AFTER more than three years of discussionand review, the LegislativeAssembly’s Environmental Commissionapproved the Water Resource Bill April15.The legislation is, “without a doubt,the most important environmental endeavorto be discussed in the country in recentyears,” according to Citizen Action Party(PAC) legislator Gerardo Vargas, a memberof the commission.The Water Resource Bill stresses thatwater is a public asset and establishes anintegrated institutional framework thataims to protect and preserve it.“Costa Rica operates under the 1942Water Law and it is becoming obsolete.This project aims to put an end to theinstitutional disorder that reigns in watermanagement, where some work is duplicatedwhile some just doesn’t get done,”said José María Villalta, Vargas’ advisor.In 2001, the government, theOmbudsman’s Office and then-legislatorJosé Merino, of the Fuerza Democráticaparty, produced three separate water projects,which were later modified and combinedinto the current Water ResourceBill, Villalta explained.If approved, the legislation wouldchange the current method of allocating asmall portion of water fees for conservationand a considerable one for administrativepurposes, so that more funds go towater conservation.Also, the bill would allow indigenouscommunities to receive payment for environmentalservices, in recognition of theirhistorical dedication to forest preservation.Villalta said the Water Resource Bill isexpected to be reviewed by legislators inthe coming weeks, although it may bemonths before it is approved.

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