Tensions grow between agriculture and environment ministers over water

A turf war is fast developing between Peru’s agriculture minister Ismael Benavides and newly appointed environment minister Antonio Brack over control of Peru’s precious and fast diminishing water resources.

Benavides, who has already said he will maintain national authority over Peru’s hydraulic resources, told daily Peru21 on Tuesday that although water may be a multi-sectoral issue, “each ministry must work within its field.”

Celebrated environmentalist, Brack, who is to present the duties, functions and responsibilities of his ministry before President Alan Garcia’s Cabinet on Wednesday, has harshly criticized the “less than efficient” management of Peru’s scarce hydraulic resources.

He is widely expected to make a case for why water management should fall under the jurisdiction of the Environment Ministry, created by decree last week by Garcia, who immediately tapped Brack to lead the new agency.

In Peru, water is a dire issue. The country’s glaciers, which feed hydroelectric plants and provide drinking water to Lima, the world’s second largest desert city after Cairo, Egypt, are in the process of accelerated meltdown due to global warming. Peru has historically suffered from its lack of a national water management plan, and in recent years, it has been at the core of social unrest among farmers in competition with the mining and metallurgic industries. Pollution from those sectors, as well as the massive use of agrochemicals, are another cause for concern.

The coast, Brack said, “doesn’t produce water, but it uses it, dirties it and then dumps it.”

Congresswoman Gloria Ramos, who heads a commission on indigenous rights and the environment, expressed her support for Brack in an interview Tuesday with CNR radio.

“The Environment Ministry should intervene because it’s not only about considering water to be a resource used for agriculture … It is a very important natural resource, that is above all highly vulnerable, and given that we are faced with the effects of global climate change, we won’t have any water in a few years,” she said. “For this reason, water should fall under the authority of the Environment Ministry, and this ministry should work in close collaboration with the Agriculture Ministry.”

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