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Indigenous Groups March Against Ecuador Water Bill Protesters Expect 10-Day March to End in Quito – Wall Street Journal

Date: Jun 23, 2014

QUITO, Ecuador—Indigenous groups in Ecuador, supported by social organizations, have started a 10-day march to protest a new water bill which could be approved by lawmakers on Tuesday.

Analysts have said the march—led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, or Conaie—could signal the beginning of a series of protests in the country over concerns the bill would restrict water supplies and affect food security.

The march began Saturday in the Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe, where the first large-scale, open-pit mining project is being developed. Protesters are heading toward the capital of Quito and said that they plan to arrive in the Ecuadorean capital by next Monday.

Indigenous leaders said they want lawmakers to include proposals in the water bill that would guarantee the rights of indigenous communities living near water resources.

Miguel Carvajal, the president of a congressional committee on food sovereignty, said Monday that the bill already includes most of the proposals from indigenous communities.

“The bill includes the main proposals made by indigenous groups during the last 20 years,” Mr. Carvajal said. “There is no reason to protest. The march is driven by political motivations.”

The president of Conaie, Jorge Herrera, denied that the march was political and said that it was the first step in a broader strategy by indigenous communities who oppose the bill.

The current constitution, approved in a referendum in 2008, ordered the legislature to enact a new law on water use and permits to ensure formal regulation and equitable distribution.

Ecuador’s National Assembly first debated the bill in 2010. At the time, Conaie held large protests in various provinces that prevented lawmakers from passing the water bill.

President Rafael Correa’s ruling party Alianza Pais is expected to easily pass the bill, with 100 of the 137 seats in the National Assembly.

Write to Mercedes Alvaro at