El Heraldo: Rights of Nature granted to the Atrato River in Colombia

May 3rd, 2017

In Colombia, it is the first time that rights are granted to a river, to resources as such, beyond people and communities.

As a historical landmark, Ximena González described the ruling of the Constitutional Court that declared for the first time that a river “is subject of rights” and ordered the protection and immediate conservation of the Atrato River, its basin and tributaries, run by the State.

González is the spokeswoman for the Center for Studies for Social Justice Tierra Digna, who presented the guardianship that motivated the historic pronouncement, representing the Greater Community Council of the Popular Peasant Organization of Alto Atrato, the Greater Community Council of the Peasant Integral Association Atrato, the Association of Community Councils of Bajo Atrato, among others.

“It is a very important, historical ruling for Colombia, because for the first time it gives a place to the rights of nature. In Colombia, it is the first time that rights are given to a river, to resources as such, beyond people and communities, “he said.

González explained that the Constitutional Court declared that the Atrato river is vital for the communities, reason why the State must intervene to recover it, in well-being of the chocoanos.

“What the Court does is an experiment to give rights to this river for the first time. He ordered that a commission of the Atrato River Guardians be formed, composed of people from the communities and the National Government. He ordered that a Committee of Experts be created to advise those guardians of the river, with the idea of enerating a comprehensive intervention plan to recover and protect Atrato, “he explained.

The lawyer explained that the guardianship was filed on behalf of several community councils in the Chocó because the Atrato river, as the third most important in the country, was being affected by various situations of gold extraction illegally and by the State’s failure to provide To citizens of the area with basic services.

“Communities live on the river, their daily lives, to consume food, to bathe, require the river. So all the polluting effects of these extractive activities were having a worrisome effect on the health of the population, in the environment, presence of mercury with the consequences that this implies. The river was being destroyed, “Gonzalez explained.

The lawyer said that the Center for Studies expects a structural measure, after so many years of forgetfulness, so that the determination is in accordance with their interests. Nevertheless, they consider the judgment as a beginning of the work that is to be done in favor of the river Atrato.

Read more at CELDF.