High court rules the rights of a Quito river have been violated and orders a clean-up

Jul 8, 2024 | 0 comments

In a ruling described by activists as “historic”, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has ruled that pollution has violated the rights of a river that runs through Quito.

The Machángara River in Quito.

The city government has appealed the ruling, which is based on an article of Ecuador’s constitution that recognizes the rights of natural features like the Machángara River. “This is historic because the river runs right through Quito, and because of its influence, people live very close to it,” said Darío Iza, whose group Kitu Kara filed the complaint on behalf of the river.

The court ruled that while the appeal proceeds, the city will have to come up with a plan to clean up the Machángara. A successful appeal appears unlikely, however, since the court also ruled that river pollution also violates the rights of the human population living downstream.

The city government acknowledges that people dump all sorts of effluents and contaminants into the Machángara, which starts high in the Andes mountains. But by the time it runs through Quito, it encounters problems such as a near-total lack of treatment of the wastewater that is dumped into it. Officials say cleaning up and protecting the river will cost millions of dollars, money the city it does not have.

“The river carries away tons of garbage that comes down from gullies and hillsides,” according to the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. The river has average levels of 2% oxygen, which makes it difficult for aquatic life to thrive.

In some parts of Latin America and North America, inhabitants have constitutional rights to a clean environment, but Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world that recognize the rights of natural features not to be degraded or polluted.
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Credit: Associated Press

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