As some of you know, I am an elected official in Alto Jaramillo, a vocal in the Water District. I think this is both the only elected position a non citizen can have and the lowest elected position anyone can have. I started in the role in May 2009 when the community had a coup, the old water board resigned, a local lady who had them by the throat, lost her voice, she has been trying to regain it for a long time.
It has been a challenging time in this position, because my language skills and politics. But I have learned more Spanish and more about politics. One thing is clear, all the governmental hassles that torture new immigrants have tortured us too; an elected, semi governmental body. Delays, lost files, misplaced original documents, files buried on desks waiting for signatures and unexpected surprises. So if the you feel tortured by the bureaucracy, do not feel alone.
One of those surprises was that the community did not own it’s water supply or rights to its sources, not in La India, nor Cerro Azul, they were both owned by a local lady. She would not relinquish her rights and expected nothing to happen; she was wrong. We also discovered that our new aqueduct project in La India, costing over $100,000US of World Bank money was defective in both design and execution. Add the fact that we discovered the same local lady owned the water rights for that also. In addition the same local lady wanted the community to several hundred dollars to her for “unreimbursed” expenses.
Quietly, the local Water Board has been clearing the table of the problems. The rights to both water sources have been relinquished by the local lady, MINSA the Health Department who has authority over local rural aqueducts forced her to give them back to ANAM, the environmental authority. We, the community, acting through the elected Water Board then applied and paid for the concessions, we have them now, we hope. We have all but the original signed documents that are coming, we hope.
Today we were supposed to take title to our new, repaired World Bank La India Aqueduct, we didn’t because the engineers have not affirmed it is fully functional. Still we have water flowing from it now and soon will have the keys. The claim that the local lady was owed money was dismissed by attorneys from MINSA and now the empress has no clothes, no rights to water and no claim on the community. It has taken a long time to get to here.
When the ceremony for the La India project was canceled I was asked to come to still another meeting with ANAM. This was about Cerro Azul, our original aqueduct. It is not being abandoned. In fact due to the work of the board, a surprise to me, PRODEC is funding a $30,000 enhancement. A new sand filter and new pipe. It appears that in the past when new pipe was installed to expand the aqueduct they used what ever they had so we have a hodgepodge of sizes increasing and expanding. All of this is going to be replaced with one size tube.
Today we marched up to Cerro Azul to check the location for the filter, to a get a blessing from ANAM on the project and check on current water supply. It was just what i needed to realize that I can commune with nature and all the spirits just a couple kilometers from my house. I didn’t need a shaman or yogi so enjoy nature. We also realized it is dry season, the stream feeding the aqueduct is drying out.
I therefore need to remind my neighbors that water from the aqueduct is only for household use, not for farm animals, not for irrigation, not for sprinklers or even drip irrigation. It appears that there are people who have no water on a daily basis due to overnight irrigation by other people. The reminder is if you are irrigating and anyone contacts and board member we are obligated by law to shut off your water. Please do not make me a water Nazi. We, the board just have a few more months to go before we are replaced and I hope someone else will step up to the job.