Prizewinner of the 2019 Nuremberg International Human Rights Award
For his remarkable courage fight for the fundamental right to water in Chile.
For years, Rodrigo Mundaca has fought for free access to water in the Petorca region, north of Santiago de Chile. He is an agricultural engineer working for the organisation MODATIMA (Movimiento de Defensa por el protección del Medio Ambiente/ Movement for the Protection of Access to Water, for Land Rights and for Environmental Protection) as its Secretary General. The Petorca region, the home region of Rodrigo Mundaca, is characterised by numerous water conflicts between agricultural industry businesses (mainly growing avocados and citrus fruit for export) on the one hand and small local farmers as well as the rural population on the other hand. In Chile, 90 per cent of water rights are privatised, which means that companies divert water from the rivers, mainly to avocado plantations and to private wells.
Water is not sold it is defended
In 2010, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation to be a human right.
The right to water, according to the UN, entails access to enough water for personal and household use, physical access to water and affordable water prices. Water for personal and household use includes drinking water, water for personal hygiene, water for laundering clothes, and water for cooking. The resolution was supported by 122 out of 163 countries in attendance, including Chile.
The fight for the right to water has been criminalised in Chile. Mundaca has therefore been restricted in his freedom of expression, he has been subject of criminal prosecution and he has been sentenced. In the years 2012-2014, he had to appear in court 24 times. Mundaca has been the victim of lasting intimidation, threats and persecutions. He has to live and work with the constant fear that he might be arrested. In 2015, he was beaten up in the street in broad daylight right in the centre of Santiago de Chile. The police have never investigated this case. In 2017, he received death threats, after publishing a report by Danwatch on the topic of “Water Robbery” in Chile and on the repercussions of large-scale avocado cultivation for the European market.