The Drought in Chile Has Reached a Critical Level

The Drought in Chile Has Reached a Critical Level
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The water crisis in Chile has been deepening for years and has now come to a critical point. With its 19 million people suffering from the lack of this essential resource, water has been declared a national security issue.

As 2021 was in the top four most arid years in history, the majority of the Chilean population is now living in areas affected by drought. As a consequence, this led to the implementation of a water rationing strategy in Santiago, the capital city of Chile. The situation is even worse in numerous rural areas, in which drinking water is brought to people in emergency tanks, because they don’t have access to any other source of water.

In 2019, major protests around the country had determined the issue of water scarcity to be addressed with priority. The main request of protesters back then was the redrafting of the 1981 water code, which was enforced in Chile during the dictatorial regime of General Augusto Pinochet. This radical law created a private water rights system, which meant that water could be traded freely, with almost no regulation. According to The Guardian, “Chile is the only country in the world that specifically says in its constitution that water rights are treated as private property”.

But there is hope for the future.

With the leadership of the country recently changed, new president, Gabriel Boric, has promised a reform of the water law, which would reestablish water as a public good for people’s use. In this purpose, he appointed Marisa Rojas as the new environment minister, who is a specialist in climate issues. Rojas has a PhD in atmospheric physics and was among the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in 2021, which categorized climate changes caused by human activity as “inevitable and irreversible”.

While the economy of Chile is one of the largest in South America, the means through which it reached this position have severely impacted the country and its citizens. Almost 60 percent of the country’s water resources are being used for forestry, even if this industry represents only 3 percent of the country’s GDP. Approximately 37 percent of the water supply is dedicated to agriculture and water-hungry crops such as avocados. In the end, people are left with an extremely low amount for their daily use.

Hopefully, the redrafting of the constitution to reevaluate the water system will manage to, at least, attempt reversing the situation and improve the conditions for the Chilean people. A referendum will be organized on September 4th for the draft to be approved.


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