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Chungará (Arica)

On-line version ISSN 0717-7356

Chungará (Arica) vol.50 no.2 Arica June 2018 



Calogero M. Santoro1 

Victoria Castro2  3 

José M. Capriles4 

José Barraza5 

Jacqueline Correa6 

Pablo A. Marquet7  8  9 

Virginia McRostie9  10  11 

Eugenia M. Gayo12 

Claudio Latorre7  8  9  11 

Daniela Valenzuela13 

Mauricio Uribe14 

Maria Eugenia de Porras15  16 

Vivien G. Standen17 

Dante Angelo18 

Antonio Maldonado16 

Eva Hamamé19 

Daniella Jofré20 

1 Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile. * , autor correspondiente;;

2 Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

3 Departamento de Antropología, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Santiago, Chile

4 Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA.

5 Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile.

6 Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile.

7 Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

8 Laboratorio Internacional en Cambio Global (LINCGlobal), Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

9 Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Santiago, Chile.,

10 Departamento de Antropología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

11 Centro UC Desierto de Atacama, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

12 Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2 & Laboratory for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry, Universidad de Concepción, Chile.

13 Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile.

14 Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

15 Instituto Argentino de Nivología, Glaciología y Ciencias Ambientales (IANIGLA - CCT CONICET Mendoza), Argentina.

16 Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), Universidad de La Serena, La Serena, Chile,

17 Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile.

18 Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile.

19 Escuela de Ciencia Política, Instituto Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile.

20 Departamento de Antropología, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile.

“The Tarapacá Declaration” draws attention to the urgent need to change how human societies have been using water in the Atacama Desert, based on a historical trajectory spanning several millennia. The Declaration, an initiative that summarizes the results of the CONICYT/PIA, Anillo project SOC1405, is oriented towards civil society and various political entities, aiming to generate technological and cultural changes to halt and mitigate the effects caused by anthropogenic activities in one of the oldest and most arid deserts in the world. In the course of the project, we established the urgent need to sensitize society to the wasteful overuse and misuse of water in the Atacama Desert, a non-renewable resource in relation to the economic scales of extraction of this element that depends, fundamentally, on fossil waters that have accumulated for millennia in the highlands of the Desert. In this way we want to avoid that this scientific knowledge is encapsulated in the universities and to echo the point made by Victoria Castro (2003): that to grow you have to educate.

The Declaration, presented at a public ceremony at La Moneda Cultural Center, on June 4, 2018, has the support of the following National Prize (NP) recipients: María Cecilia Hidalgo, for Natural Science 2006; Mary Kalin Arroyo, for Natural Science 2010; Ligia Gargallo, Natural Science, 2014; Eric Goles, Exact Sciences 1993; Mateo Martinic, History, 2000; Lautaro Núñez, History 2002; Ramón Latorre, Natural Science 2002; Jorge Hidalgo, History, 2004; Gabriel Salazar, History 2006; Juan Carlos Castilla, Applied Sciences and Technologies, 2010; Bernabé Santelices, NP for Natural Science, 2012; Luis Briones, Award for the Conservation of Chilean Cultural Heritage, 2012; Jorge Manuel Pinto, NP for History, 2012; Hugo Romero, NP for Geography,, 2013; Sergio González, NP for History, 2014; Francisco Rothhammer, NP for Natural Science, 2016; Jorge Negrete, NP for Geography, 2016; Julio Pinto, NP for History, 2016.

The Tarapacá Declaration

Water is a vital resource on our planet and its value becomes even more evident in the driest corner of the world: the Atacama Desert, in northern Chile. The only sources of water in this Desert are restricted to surface runoff and groundwater (fossil waters) dependent on intermittent seasonal rainfall in the Andes. Aquifers were last recharged between 17,000 to 10,000 years ago, when regional climatic conditions were more humid than current conditions; therefore, rainfall was two to three times higher than it is today (Betancourt et al. 2000; Latorre et al. 2005; Nester et al. 2007; Placzek et al. 2007). This implies that in the Atacama Desert water is rather not renewable in relation to its current and growing demand (Gayo et al. 2012; Houston 2004). At that time much of this territory was covered with springs, wetlands and oases with plants and animals that captivated the first human settlers who arrived in this area. Today, however, we are contributing to make it the driest and sterile place on the planet and transforming it into an uninhabitable ecosystem. Consequently, given the uncertain current and future scenarios of climate change, these problems will only become more severe (Minvielle and Garreaud 2011; Thibeault et al. 2011).

This Declaration is a wake-up call to the need to reverse the uncontrolled use of water in the Atacama Desert and guarantee access to clean water as an inalienable right for present and future generations. In concordance with world scientists’ manifestos1 (Descola 2016), we insist on the urgency of making fundamental changes to our “Residence on Earth,” as the poem by the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Pablo Neruda (2004), in one of its verses metaphorically reads:

The day of the unfortunate, the pale day appears with a heartbreaking cold smell, with its forces in gray, without rattles, dawn oozing from everywhere:

it is a shipwreck in a void, with a surrounding of sobbing.

As an example, groundwater levels in Pampa del Tamarugal have fallen hundreds of meters (Lictevout et al. 2013; Tilling et al. 2012) due to overexploitation and to precipitation in the Andes becoming increasingly scarce and erratic as an effect of global climate change. In addition, for more than 3,000 years, the technological innovations introduced in the Atacama Desert have focused almost exclusively on increasing the extraction capacities of this resource (Maldonado et al. 2015; McRostie et al. 2017; Santoro et al. 2017; Uribe 2006). This anthropocentric vision in the excessive use of water has become exacerbated lately.

Consequently, the current extraction rates for industrial, rural, urban and domestic purposes are unsustainable. This unrestricted use of water threatens these activities that constitute an important contribution to the GDP, as well asto key ecosystems and traditional way of life. If this continues, the sustainability of more than one and a half million people, (around 9% of Chile’s population), will be directly threatened, further encouraging the abandonment of rural territories, the overpopulation of urban areas and the marginalization of the population of in the north of the country. The traditional communities of the Atacama Desert have had an economy based on agriculture, pastoralism, hunting, and gathering. The historical appropriation and large- scale exploitation of aquifers in these arid ecosystems by private entities and the state has led to drying and in some cases progressive pollution of productive enclaves (bofedales, wetlands, vegas, salt flats, oases, aquifers). This has had immediate repercussions on traditional ways of life, which, together with proletarianization since the beginning of the twentieth century, has aggravated migration and abandonment of the places of origin to access modernization, often falling into circles of poverty, maladjustment and marginalization (Aldunate 1985; Carrasco 2014; Mc Phee 2010; Mora 2015). This irrational use of water has also caused an increase in the toxicity of runoff waters, as well as an impoverishment and potential irreversible destruction of the ecosystems in the Atacama Desert and its important ecosystem services (Daily 1997). For example, the forests of tamarugo and algarrobo in the hyper-arid core (intermediate depression) of this desert and the salt flats inhabited by flamingos and other endemic species from the Chilean highlands face the constant threat of their changing habitats (Delatorre 2005).

The effects of climate change (Aranda 2013), the growing pressure on a finite resource, the increasing socio-environmental conflicts, the failures and regulatory problems of the Chilean system and people’s relationship to water, challenge us and demonstrate the urgent need to think, by gathering the most diverse agents in society, about how to generate profound cultural changes to avoid the exhaustion of this element.

In sum, water in the Atacama Desert is a non- renewable resource and according to the World Resources Institute, Chile appears among the 25 countries most likely to be water-stressed in 2040 (Tianyi et al. 2015).

Another additional problem is the diversity of authorities that converge in its management (OECD 2011), as well as public policies that have failed to regulate or control the chronic abuse of its exploitation. On the contrary, while on the rest of the planet water is recognized as an inalienable human right2 (Pinos and Malo 2018), Chile is the only country in the world where water is a tradable commodity, which constitute an attack against human rights.

To face these problems, the following remedial measures are proposed.

  • That the State of Chile declare the water issue a national priority, protecting its supply and guaranteeing its access as an inalienable human right. Thus, this non-renewable vital element should be de- privatized.

  • Establish public policies that systematically and progressively reduce the extraction of water from traditional sources (fossil and surface runoff), increasing the contribution of new sources (for example, desalination of seawater, condensation of the coastal fog camanchaca) and encourage the responsible and sustainable use of water resources in all areas of society.

  • Promote methodologies of participatory interdisciplinary research and environmental education in formal and informal frameworks that contribute to social reappraisal, changes in perception, attitudes and practices towards water resources.

  • Generate conditions for the development of interdisciplinary studies for the creation of highly sustainable.

  • Encourage a culture of water usage that adopts technological innovations and rescues the experiences from the past and indigenous peoples, as well as scientific knowledge that has demonstrated the precariousness and non-renewable nature of this resource.

These actions, together with other measures, could prevent northern Chile from becoming “waterless people is a dead people”, if it is not too late.

Finally, we want to remember, along with the metaphor extracted from Pablo Neruda’s poem, Hans Jonas’s principle of responsibility (1995): “Act in such a way that the effects of your action are compatible with the permanence of an authentic human life here on earth

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