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Ministry of the Environment delivers definitive limits of water recharge zones in Cuenca

80% of Cuencans decided to protect these areas in a consultation in early 2021.

Ten months after the popular consultation in Cuenca, the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition (MAE) issued Decree MAATE-2021-077, in which it delimited the water recharge zones of this Azuayan canton. On February 7, 2021, eight out of ten Cuencanos voted in favor of banning mining activities near the Tomebamba, Tarqui, Yanuncay, Machángara and Norcay rivers.

In the new consideration of the MAE, the initial delimitation developed by the Municipal Company ETAPA was extended. The document was signed by Minister Gustavo Manrique on the previous December 22, but the local authorities only found out about it on the night of Wednesday 29.

For Councilor Omar Álvarez, This resolution is important because it is precise and georeferenced in terms of environmental protection zones where the exploitation of metallic mining cannot be carried out. The only things allowed are activities related to preservation, scientific studies, protection of the ecosystem in general and especially the care of water in the 1,919.37 square kilometers of water recharge areas detailed in the resolution.

Although the new resolution of the MAE complements what was approved in the plebiscite, Álvarez considers that the Cantonal Council should support even more with its policies on the use and control of land through the Development and Territorial Ordering Plan (PDOT) and the Plan of Land Use and Management (PUGS), which for now is being discussed in informal workshops among councilors. That is, through the provisions of the national government and the municipality, “there would be two ways to ratify what was decided last February.”

The provisions of the Ministerial Agreement include articles of the Constitution, of the Organic Law of Water Resources, Uses and Use of Water, of the Organic Administrative Code, of the Organic Statute of Management Organization by Processes of the MAE, an opinion of the Constitutional Court and the popular consultation for water.

Precisely in literals b and c of this opinion it is stated: “The effects of this popular consultation, in the face of an affirmative pronouncement by the electorate, will only be for the future” and that “the measures to be implemented (…) may not exceed the scope of competences constitutional and legal provisions established for each level of government ”.

Thus, before people or prominence institutions that try to appeal this delimitation, Álvarez says that as a city we will have to be aware, even more so “in the face of the legal entanglement that the country is experiencing.”

Likewise, in a statement issued by the Ministry it is specified that the decision of the Cuencans is a precedent to guarantee the human right to water in which 1,584,377 inhabitants of the Cuenca canton are allowed to benefit from the various uses and exploitation of water For human consumption.

On February 7, 435,963 registered voters in Cuenca decided to prohibit mining exploitation in the water recharge zones of the Tarqui, Yanuncay, Tomebamba, Machángara and Norcay rivers. They answered five questions with the following text:

“Do you agree with the prohibition of metal mining, on a medium and large scale, in the water recharge zone of the Tarqui River, according to the technical delimitation made by the Municipal Company Etapa EP? Yes or no”. In the others, only the name of the recharge zones with the Yanuncay, Tomebamba, Machángara and Norcay rivers changed.

According to the official results of the National Electoral Council, in each one there was an absolute majority in favor, with an average of 80%. (I)

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