Peru Makes Water Access Constitutional Right, Sets Up Sewage Plan

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Lucien O. Chauvin

Peru is taking steps to implement President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s pledge to vastly increase water and wastewater coverage, including modifying the country’s Constitution to make water access a constitutional right.

The government in the final days of June approved two new mechanisms outlining its plans for water and sewage services as part of a broader effort for the country to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents most of the world’s wealthy economies, including the U.S.

The president also signed Law 30588 (June 22) modifying the country’s 1993 Constitution to make access to water a constitutional right—a move that public advocacy groups have demanded for years. The designation will provide rural communities more leverage in dealing with the state and extractive companies that are developing mining and oil and gas projects. Peru in May registered about 50 conflicts over water use.The executive orders lay out the need to improve services to guarantee the population’s health, safeguard water resources, and improve standards of living.

“The lack of sanitation services restricts the possibilities people have to carry out income-generating activities, contributing to the perverse cycle of water–health–poverty,” the plan said.

The government published the National Sanitation Plan 2017–2021 (Executive Order 018-2017-VIVIENDA) June 25. It followed this on June 26 with Executive Order 019-2017-VIVIENDA, which includes the implementing bylaws for the Framework Law for Management and Provision of Sanitation Services. The framework law was presented through Legislative Decree 1280 published Dec. 16, 2016.

Right Track

“The administration is on the right track by placing access to water and sewage on the national agenda. It is a complex issue for Peru, where the economy expanded above 6 percent for a decade, yet there are still many households that lack indoor plumbing,” said Gonzalo Delacamara, a water specialist at Spain’s IMDEA-Water, a scientific research group.

The National Institute of Statistics & Information reported at the end of 2016 that 94.5 percent of urban households had access to potable water, while 88.3 percent had access to sewage service. The numbers dropped considerably in rural areas, with 71.2 percent of households having access to water and only 24.6 percent having access to sewage service. Of the 81,231 rural and urban areas with 2,000 or fewer inhabitants, 54,318 did not have water or wastewater systems.

The targets in the national plan are 100 percent coverage for water and sewage services in urban areas by 2021. In rural areas, the aim is to achieve an 84.6 percent rate for water and 70 percent for sewage. Two-thirds of the investment, approximately $10.5 billion, will be used to expand sewage wastewater treatment. The plan also calls for all wastewater to be treated, up from 68 percent in 2016. It will increase to 40 percent in rural areas. No data exists for rural areas. The plan calls for full coverage for rural areas by 2030.

Fragmentation

According to Delacamara, the government needs to pay particular attention to zones—including urban areas—where water service is unregulated. About 35 percent of the population lives in areas not covered by a regulated waterworks. Peru has 50 water companies, but only one—the waterworks for Lima, the capital—is profitable. The Lima water company, Sedapal, had net earnings of $28 million in the first quarter of this year.

The existing waterworks are plagued by management and planning problems.

Peru’s Housing, Construction and Sanitation Ministry, which will be in charge of implementing the plan and new regulations, listed at the end of 2016 more than 100 projects, with investments around $300 million, that were stalled because of faulty technical studies.

“The system is too fragmented. There are many places with populations of more than 15,000 people where the regulator has no information on quality of water provided,” he said.

The 238-article bylaws for the framework set out to tackle this problem, specifying the roles of the national, regional, and local governments, as well as regulatory agencies. Chapter III of the legislation establishes procedures for merging services as a way of creating economies of scale. Article 26 specifies state incentives for integrating municipal services.

The national plan not only sets out goals, but also establishes investment levels. It concludes that $15.2 billion in investment is needed to increase service. Investment this year will be $1.8 billion, increasing annually until it reaches $4.1 billion in 2021, the final year of Kuczynski’s five-year presidential term.

Financing will come from the Treasury, but the government also is planning to turn to multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, as well as national development banks such as Germany’s KfW to cover investment needs. Loans will likely cover up to one-fifth of the investments.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lucien O. Chauvin in Lima at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

For More Information

The new national plan can be found, in Spanish, at http://src.bna.com/qcW.

The new law making access to water a constitutional right can be found, in Spanish, at http://src.bna.com/qcX.

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.