San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Water Pipeline Fight Gets Ugly in Sardinal

Police and protesters were injured this week when opposition to a water pipeline construction project in the northwestern province of Guanacaste turned violent.

Local residents set fire to tubing, damaging machinery, and this week clashed with anti-riot police. According to the daily La Nación, 11 police officers were injured in clashes Tuesday and four had to be treated by the Red Cross for cuts and bruises.

The conflict has arisen from the frustrations of residents in the inland town of Sardinal who are hoping to stop building of an aqueduct that would pipe water from their community to the coastal towns of Playas del Coco and Ocotal to the northwest.

The construction of hotels, housing projects and condominiums in the two coastal towns has outpaced local water supply and led to rationing, so private developers have formed a trust fund to oversee the construction of the aqueduct.

Once built, the developers will hand the pipeline over to the government and receive their water supply. The aqueduct would also include water for other coastal communities.

Opponents say the project is illegal, lacking the proper permits. National legislator José Rosales, of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), has called on the government to stop the construction and “clarify” the situation.

Social activist groups have begun rallying to the community’s cause and are planning a large protest Saturday, according to e-mails sent late this week.

The Public Security Ministry, meanwhile, is sending more officers to the area for a total of about 100, the daily La Nación reported.

Ricardo Sancho, president of the National Water and Sewer Institute (AyA), has stood by the project, telling the community that Sardinal is guaranteed sufficient water for the next 20 years.

“Twenty years is nothing,” said Gadi Amit, a leader in the opposition to the project.

“Sardinal’s development needs to be planned, and it’s not the developers who should decide the planning.”


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