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Costa Rica

Costa Rica is world renowned for its vast tropical rainforests and biodiversity as well as one of the highest standards of living in Latin America. Its focus on human development, environmental issues and absence of a military are examples of its efforts towards sustainable development.

Water, solid waste, and sanitation have largely been ignored in Costa Rica up until now. As a result the lack of attention has had disastrous consequences. Acueductos y Alcantarillados is a private company that supplies San Jose’s water. In May 2003, the company delivered unsafe water to 50,000 households and 7,700 people required medical attention. 400,000 were cut off from water.

The state-owned company, Aquas y Alcantarillado, is considering a 25-year US$285 million contract with Bechtel in order to upgrade and expand wastewater treatment. Bechtel’s contracts elsewhere in the world have been controversial – e.g. in Bolivia and the Philippines.

Water shortages have resulted in an increase in water borne diseases. Diarrhea is widespread despite the relative high coverage of piped water. According to the World Bank, in 2002 98% of households have access to improved water infrastructure. However, water is often only available for a short period during the day.

Costa Rica has felt the charge by private companies, but according to Gabriel Rivas-Ducca, campaigner at Friends of the Earth Costa Rica:

"[The people of Costa Rica A]re strongly critical of the appropriation of water by private forces in Costa Rica. Water resources are under attack from different sides and forces: environmental pollution and economic power. Uncontrolled expansion of dams, conflicts between local communities and transnational hotel chains in our dry tropical areas and the threat of oil exploration in front of our Caribbean Coast all threaten the rights and the environment of Costa Ricans."

Friends of the Earth in Costa Rica acts as a local watchdog against large transnational companies.

In the News:

August: The Struggle For Latin America's Water

    » cmep | Water | cmep Water | reports | costa rica

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