New water concessions procedure stirs up privatization claims in Mexico

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Conagua Digital, a new procedure that enables online submission and approval of requests for water concessions and permits, is an attempt by the outgoing federal administration to privatize some of Mexico's water sources, civil society groups claim.

Representatives of different organizations said at a press conference Thursday that the procedure will allow water permits and concessions to be issued to anyone who requests them without complying with any requirements.

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According to the groups, the outgoing government is attempting to privatize some national water sources before the new administration of president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) takes office on December 1. AMLO made a campaign promise to repeal 10 water decrees that President Peña Nieto signed in June, which opponents say lift bans on the implementation of a concession system to privatize water.

Pedro Moctezuma, a representative of local group Agua para Todos, said that the process - which goes into effect on October 15 and for which an agreement was published in the country's official gazette at the beginning of this month - will serve to automatically award concessions and permits to those who have already submitted applications to the authority. This approval would be given without conducting any analysis on how the water is going to be used, Moctezuma said.

Those concessions would have a term of 30 years and could be renewed for a similar period. They could also be transferred without restrictions, according to the organizations.

The groups are planning to call on Mexico's congress and federal authorities to halt the procedure and cancel all the applications that are submitted via the online platform, because "not everybody should have access to a water concession" and the environmental effects of issuing such documents need to be considered more carefully.

What does Conagua Digital entail?

Based on the agreement published in the official gazette, Conagua Digital will serve as a online system to submit, address and authorize certain procedures related to issuing concessions for wastewater, surface water and groundwater resources, concessions to use federal land managed by Conagua; extending, modifying, and transferring existing water titles and permits; and issuing permits to carry out waterworks.

The applicants listed in Conagua's user register will have their own account in the portal to carry out online procedures that previously had to be done on paper.

To see the agreement published by Conagua, in Spanish, click here.

Pictured: Representatives of civil society group Agua para Todos attend a press conference in Mexico City on Thursday. CREDIT: Agua para Todos' Twitter account.