The Istanbul Water Tribunal

The Istanbul Water Tribunal

Istanbul Water Tribunal was convened on 11 and 12 March 2009 where five cases related to bodies of water and hydrological systems were heard - and the Tribunal's verdict announced on 14 March 2009, a couple of days before the 5th World Water Forum is scheduled to open in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Water Tribunal is an international, independent and autonomous body for environmental justice, created for the purpose of helping resolve conflicts related to bodies of water and hydrological systems. It is based on coexistence principles, respect for human dignity, solidarity between peoples, sanctity of all life forms, and environmental responsibility.

The Tribunal seeks to bring back consciousness to people so they can form opinions on the handling and protection of water, as well as fomenting a vigilant attitude on the projects that can affect these valuable systems.

The Tribunal (created in 1998), held a meeting for the first time in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 2000, to analyze eleven cases of threats to the hydrics systems in Central America.

A second Central American hearing was conducted, also in the city of San Jose, from March 15 to 19, 2004, with the purpose of settling nine causes on the infringement to the hydrological systems and the environmental rights of the communities in the region.

As a result of those experiences, the Tribunal met again, from March 13 to 20, 2006, in Mexico City, to settle 13 causes on infringement to the hydrological systems and environmental rights in Latin American countries, affected by far-reaching hydroelectric projects, like the La Parota, in Mexico; by cases of industrial and mining contamination; and by privatization of the water, as happened in Bolivia, amongst several other cases.

In the following hearing, in the Mexican city of Guadalajara in October 2007, the Tribunal reaffirmed its international vocation, with the judging of seven cases, from Mexico and South America, to diverse cases of contamination by open-cast mining operations in Central America.

The last hearing was conducted in 2008, in the city of Antigua, Guatemala. This hearing had the particular task to analyze cases of abuse to the hydrics systems in indigenous territories, and counted on the participation of representatives from some of the main indigenous communities of Guatemala.

Istanbul Water Tribunal was held with the support of the Heinrrich Böell Foundation. The Water Tribunal analyzed five different cases related to bodies of water and hydrological systems. Three cases were from Turkey, one case from Mexico and Brazil each:

- The Yusufeli Dam Project, in the Çoruh river, the Turkish region of the Black Sea
- The Ilisu Dam Project, in the Dicle river (Tigris), in the provinces of Mardin and Şırnak
- The dams in the valley of Munzur, the province of Tunceli, on the Euphrates river
- The construction of mega dams on the Madeira river, in the state of Rondônia, Brazil; and
- The social and environmental impacts of water projects in Mexico.

Although it is certain that the verdicts and resolutions of the tribunal are not obligatory for compliance by the authorities of any one country, still these statements and the censorship from the international community impel a moral sentence, encouraging the search for alternatives in the solution of hydrological conflicts.

Bobby Ramakant - Citizen News Service (CNS)