Source: Luis Carlos Perez CCA-Lawyers’ Collective Corporation

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective Corporation (CCALCP is the Spanish acronym) reports that last Thursday, July 2, 2015, together with representatives of the Committee to Defend the Water Supply and the Santurbán Páramo, the Corporation filed a civil rights action with the Santander Administrative Tribunal, calling for the protection and re-establishment of the fundamental rights of participation, administrative due process, information, and the right to water that were violated by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS is the Spanish acronym) in its administrative proceeding on the delineation of Santurbán.

The brief of CCALCP establishes the feasibility, and the evidentiary and legal support, to demonstrate that throughout the proceedings that led to the issuance of Resolution 2090 of 2014 – which delineates the Páramo of Santurbán – the Ministry gave no credence to the totality of the petitions that were submitted to guarantee the rights of participation, administrative due process and information belonging to the residents of Bucaramanga and its metropolitan area. The foregoing is supported by the following facts (among others):

1. The refusal to conduct public hearings. Throughout the proceedings on delineation, considering that Article 35 of Statute 1437 of 2011 permits authorities to require hearings as part of the process “to promote citizen participation”, CCALP requested the Ministry to provide hearings for the inhabitants of Bucaramanga and its metropolitan area any time that the decisions would directly influence an ecosystem needing special protection, one that is depended on for the generation and regulation of water resources indispensable for human life, for the mitigation of climate change, and for the conservation of the country’s biological diversity. The Bucaramanga Metropolitan Aqueduct furnishes the principal water intake to supply those needs. The Ministry responded to the request as follows: “it is not appropriate to carry out a public hearing for the delineation of that ecosystem”. Referring to this mechanism for public participation, it responded that “it may not be argued in the delineation of the ecosystems of páramos, such as is Santurbán (. . .).”

2. The refusal to permit the intervention of third parties. Likewise, in relation to the request to allow parties to intervene, as contemplated for the administrative proceedings, the Ministry answered that “in moving forward with this administrative proceeding of a general and abstract character, as is the case in the delineation of Santurbán, the intervention of third parties is not appropriate.”

3. Third, regarding the “roundtables” promoted by the Ministry, we alleged that the call to take part in those was not circulated in an impartial manner. They privileged the participation of sectors whose interests were opposed to the protection of the ecosystem and at the same time, according to the Ministry Legal Office, in answer to the petition presented by the CCALP, these instances “had no influence whatsoever in the delineation of the páramo”. That is to say, that contrary to all of the constitutional imperatives and to Article 1 of Statute 99 of 1993 that reaffirm the democratic and participative character that this kind of environmental decision must have, the Ministry corroborates that at the time that these roundtables took place, the delineation of the Santurbán páramo had already been completed. As a result, carrying them out cannot be considered part of the participation in making the decision that was made.

4. Besides, the Ministry argued, a kind of participation included making comments on the projected administrative action when it was published on its web site. However, the Ministry never made that publication.

In the same brief, CCALP argues that protection via a civil rights action is an interim measure to give shape to the threat of irreparable harm to the fundamental right to potable water for human consumption. Such a risk is based on evidence of the incompatibility of the mining activities that are being carried out in the páramo ecosystem, activities that Articles 5 and 9 of Resolution 2090 of 2014 provide express authority to continue.

Among other petitions, the brief in support of the civil rights action requests an order suspending the effects of Resolution 2090 of 2014 until the Ministry, The Regional Autonomous Corporation for the Defense of the Bucaramanga Plateau (CDMB) and the North Santander Autonomous Regional Corporation (CORPONOR) adopt and guarantee the necessary measures to make effective the fundamental rights to participation, to equality, and to due process, because these rights have been violated.

This civil rights action is conceived as one of the first legal actions that have interposed a defense of the ecosystems of the páramos. Because of that, we invite people, organizations and institutions to take part, to support and to contribute to the constitutional action in defense of the water supply, the páramos, and of life itself.

Fax: (7) 6455528-3202314625

Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers Collective Corporation

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