Government officials and residents of Sardinal, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, have rescheduled a pivotal water rights meeting for Nov. 9 after the government canceled the original meeting a few weeks ago due to heavy rains.
The meeting will showcase a preliminary report on the sustainability of the Sardinal aquifer conducted by a multiinstitutional government water committee.
The report examines, among other things, whether the aquifer could supply water to Ocotal and Playas del Coco, two tourist communities located on the coast about 9 kilometers away.
The government’s canceling and rescheduling of the meeting incited protest from local residents, who complain they have been systematically left out of the management of their water.
Mario Zaragoza, spokesman for the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry, confirmed the preliminary report is finished but doubted the ministry would be able to hold the report back from public outlets until the new meeting.
Yet in a public statement on Wednesday, the nation’s ombudswoman challenged the ministry’s transparency. While the Constitution gives her office preliminary access to public documents, she has been unable to obtain the completed report.
This confusion underscores the conflict that has surrounded the water source in recent months.
In May, the $8 million, privately-funded aqueduct project was suspended following over a week of protests that challenged its long-term sustainability.
Although the project was 75 percent complete, opponents of the project, including the ombudswoman, say the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) never completed a sustainability study of the aquifer and the private investors did not obtain the necessary permits (TT, May 30).
Now, armed with what they say is evidence of foul play, locals are vowing to literally fight to take control of the water.
Community leaders are demanding a yearlong study of the aquifer and the resignation of AyA President Ricardo Sancho.