San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Anti-pipeline argument gains gov’t backing, but activist says construction continues

Costa Rica‘s agency in charge of the nation’s underground water resources has strengthened the argument against a pipeline that would draw water from a small inland village to feed booming coastal development in Playas del Coco and Ocotal.

According to the National Subterranean Water and Irrigation Service (SENARA), the government and developers have failed to prove the project won’t suck the community’s aquifer dry.

The aqueduct would pipe water more than nine kilometers from the aqueduct feeding the town of Sardinal to provide more water connections for hotels, condominiums and housing developments on the northwestern Pacific coast, in the province of Guanacaste.

Sardinal residents took to the streets to block the project, nearly three-quarters finished, damaging equipment, clashing violently with police and claiming their water was being stolen for private interests. 

The project is being funded and carried out by developers from the area after the construction boom sapped all available water in Coco and Ocotal. Once completed, the aqueduct would be handed over to the National Institute of Water and Sewers (AyA) and become part of the public infrastructure.

AyA has insisted the aqueduct is sustainable, and AyA director Ricardo Sancho said studies by his agency show the pipeline would use just 10 percent of the Sardinal aquifer.

SENARA, however, examined those studies and in a report to the nation’s ombudswoman declared them “insufficient.”

The ombudswoman has called for the construction to be suspended, and denounced what she calls “irregularities” in the project, including a lack of permits and environmental studies.

Last week, the local municipal government ordered the project suspended until the government proves the aqueduct is sustainable, however local activist Gadi Amit, who has filed suit to stop the aqueduct, said construction continues.

“Today I went to see, and they are still working on the water tanks,” he said yesterday. “It is a slap in the face to the legal orders and the people and to Costa Rica. Investors are not above the law.”

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