Chile’s Supreme Court Upholds Indigenous Water Use Rights
December 4th, 2009
The Supreme Court of Chile issued a unanimous decision guaranteeing a continual water flow to two indigenous communities in the country. The Court invoked ILO Convention 169. The decision could have far reaching consequences for Chile’s mining industry
The landmark ruling on indigenous water rights was in a case that pitted Region I Aymara communities against Agua Mineral Chusmiza, a company seeking the rights to bottle and sell freshwater from a source used historically by Aymara indigenous residents.
The court ruled unanimously in favor of granting a water flow of 9 liters per second to Chusmiza and Usmagama communities. It applied Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations that was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1969. The legal dispute had been festering for 14 years and centers on community water rights in one of the driest deserts on the planet.
A story in the Santiago Times quoted Luis Carvajal, director of the Aymara communities, who described the joy community members felt upon learning of the ruling: “We cried, we sang, I can’t describe it…this is history, an enormous precedent to ensure that water is not taken away from other communities.”