President Piñera presents Plan against Drought: “We all have to be part of the solution.”
The initiative seeks to promote desalination, particularly in the regions most affected by drought; the modernization of irrigation for food production; a new boost in investment for rural drinking water; and efficient use of the resource in cities.
This Sunday, the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, presented the Plan contra la Sequía (Plan against Drought). Its measures seek to increase the availability of water, improve the efficiency of water use and ensure supplies for human consumption and food production.
The strategy seeks to promote desalination, particularly in the regions most affected by drought; the modernization of irrigation for food production; a new boost in investment for rural drinking water; and efficient use of the resource in cities.
“We all have to be part of the solution,” President Piñera said during a visit to farmers in Peldehue in the municipality of Colina.
“I call on all my fellow Chileans to become fully aware that water is life and that we have to create a solid culture in which water is looked after as a real treasure, as it is a scarce but fundamental resource,” the President added. He was accompanied at the event by Interior and Public Security Minister Rodrigo Delgado, Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno and Agriculture Minister María Emilia Undurraga.
Water desalination will be strengthened, particularly in the Coquimbo and Valparaíso regions, the two worst affected by water shortages. Furthermore, investment in desalination plants will be expedited; the capacity of the existing desalination plants in Chile, for mining, industrial use and human consumption, totals 6,653 liters per second. Four desalination projects are currently under construction in the Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo regions. There are also three projects undergoing environmental impact assessment and four more under development.
In the drive to modernize irrigation, the construction plan for 26 reservoirs developed during this government will continue, and a twelve-year extension to the Irrigation Law will be discussed immediately. Over the past decade, this law has allowed investment in infrastructure works that have benefitted more than 330,000 users, 80% of whom were small-scale farmers.
Furthermore, a Special Drought Fund will be created which will raise investment in irrigation to over US$110 million per year in 2021 and 2022. A Strategic Drought Research Fund worth six billion Chilean pesos (US$7.8 million) will also be promoted, aimed at developing concrete short and medium-term proposals to cope with drought.
Rural drinking water projects will also be strengthened in order to guarantee water for human consumption. More than US$342 million will be invested in 2021, almost triple the average annual investment of the last decade (2010-2019). This boost in investment will be maintained so that US$650 million is invested in rural drinking water projects over the two-year period 2021-2022.
Finally, the plan will seek to raise awareness within society, including among regional and municipal governments, companies, farmers, health companies and families, on the efficient use of water in cities. Measures include, for example, a coordinated effort with municipal governments to avoid excessive or daytime watering.
In addition to the initiatives included in the Plan against Drought, the President noted that “a few days ago, via the Agriculture Ministry, we declared an agricultural emergency in the Coquimbo, Valparaíso, O’Higgins and Maule regions, in addition to that already in place in the Los Lagos Region. Today, we want to announce that we are also going to declare an agricultural emergency in the Metropolitan Region.”
“We all have to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem. We all have to look after water. Firstly, water for human consumption and also water for food production, so that Chile can continue along the path to integral, inclusive and sustainable development,” the President stated.
The proposals presented by President Piñera this Sunday have been developed within the framework of the Water Strategy, a plan that came into being under the auspices of the National Water Board, convened by the President on October 9, 2019. The board is made up of members of congress, civil society, unions and canal associations in urban and rural areas, and the government.