Introduction to the context of elaboration of irrigation law, Bolivia

The Government of Bolivia developed several preliminary and draft Water Laws. One of the projects developed in 1994 is that named “second substitute draft for the Water Law and the Regulations on the Use of Water for Irrigation”. This draft introduces the concepts customs and consuetudinary rights, as part of the draft’s foundations; nonetheless, it also includes the native communities in the general concessions regime. In 1997, the Banzer Suárez administration addressed the issue again, proposing the “Water Resource Draft Law”, within the Administration’s natural resources policies. Since 1998 the civil society began criticizing this draft law since it promoted water management and administration as per the market rules. Thereby, in April 1999, the different peasant and settlements organizations prepared, together with their base members, a proposal for a new Water Law.

At the same time the debate on the Water Law was taking place, the Parliament was secretly debating another Law (No. 2029), for the Supply of Drinking Water and Sanitation Services, which was promulgated in November 1999; in spite of being a sector regulation it included general regulations on the use of water. This Law was highly opposed to because it affected the existing water rights; it was modified as part of the demands set forth during the “water war” that took place in Cochabamba in April 2000. The new Water Law, Law No. 2066 opened space so that the “uses and customs” of indigenous people and peasant communities would be taken into consideration and respected. However, in September 2000 CSUTCB (peasant union of Bolivia), manages to put on hold the Water Law. This action turns out to be counter-productive since it sets the ground for sector or special laws, guaranteeing extensive rights and scarce responsibilities to mining, industrial and hydrocarbons operators.

Within this context, a consultation process is launched in the year 2000 to develop an irrigation law and its regulations, facilitated by the Commission for Integrated Management of Water in Bolivia (Spanish acronym - CGIAB) and PRONAR, which later on lead to the approval of Irrigation Law No. 2878 in October 2004. The regulations to this Law were approved in August 2006, thereby giving way to apply this new Law, which is still an ongoing process.

Within the initiative “Capitalization of experiences - Water, Land and People” Bolivian stakeholders felt the need to reflect on the process that led to the formulation of the irrigation law. A learning group composed of stakeholders analyzed the social concertation process and approval of Irrigation Law No. 2878, in an attempt to identify the existing different perceptions and positions relative to said process. Thus, a series of testimonies were gathered from people related to this process, in one or all of its stages, these testimonies were used as the basis for the analysis and drawing of lessons learned.

Related lessons learnt