Nosara River, photo – Felipe Lopez
We Costa Ricans have a very different way of thinking and acting, and that might be the reason why the ASADA situation has attracted my attention and concern. I know about Costa Rica’s problems, but I also know many of the reasons why thousands of foreigners dream of living in this small and poor country.
We have a public health system, our education is free, more than 25% of our land is national or private natural reserves, and we have the strongest democracy in Central America. Our people are the happiest in the world. We live longer, smile at strangers and share everything we have, even when we were here first and others often use more of our country’s natural resources than our own families.
We think that natural resources and primary living services must be accessible to any person, anywhere in this country. Not so long ago (and still in some small Costa Rican towns) water was available for free – Costa Ricans could not imagine how it would be to charge money for such a basic necessity.
The concept of water as a “basic need” is one of the reasons why we are protecting the forest, planting more trees, being careful with our water use, protecting our water sources and trying to clean water that is already polluted. We know that the water we drink every day, even when we pay for it, is a public resource. Most of the ASADAS in Costa Rica charge basic amounts that help them improve the water infrastructure, so they can share it with more people, and this is their main purpose.
I’m not against foreigners managing the Guiones ASADA, but I ask them to realize their public responsibility and respect our way of life, laws, and traditions.
The existing Guiones ASADA is run like a parallel government, with more power than the Municipalidad of Nicoya, the CFIA and the AyA. They exert control through the power of water, deciding what and when a project may be developed. They have established complex procedures in regards to the acquisition of water, requesting a documentation list much greater than the ones required by the CFIA and the Municipalidad combined. But this is absolutely nothing compared to the thousands of dollars in fees that they charge to set up a water connection.
This ASADA justifies their excessive rates by claiming they provide “excellent” service. However, in truth the service is no better than the one we get, less than two kilometers away, in the Town of Nosara (“el Pueblo”) where the ASADA is managed by Ticos and the rates are 25 times less expensive.
In addition to controlling the community’s development at their own whim, this ASADA has established a fear-based system. They scare future developers by making them believe that what they plan on building is illegal or anti-ecological and, on the other hand, they scare their own clients by telling them that they are at risk of losing their privileged services if the rates charged by the ASADA were to be regulated or if it were to be controlled by the Costa Rican AyA.
The world financial crisis has already had a big economic impact in Nosara. The building industry is practically stopped and many construction workers, who make up approximately 80% of the town’s men, are unemployed. The ASADA’s negativity towards providing water is worsening the situation by having completely stopped new permits for over three months now, turning off the key to progress by doing so. In order to be granted a water connection by this ASADA, the process may take months or even years, after many exhausting and expensive legal proceedings. While in the Tico’s town, a water connection is done in less than a week with a big smile – for free.
The Guiones ASADA complains about not having a sufficient budget with which to improve infrastructure, while spending millions of Colones on lawyers and internal bureaucracy. All the projects that are not done due to these reasons, represent not only less jobs for our community, but also halt a broader chain of jobs and tourism-related activities.
It is urgent for the Municipalidad of Nicoya to execute an urban regulatory plan so that we will be able to develop the area in a sustainable way. But it is much more urgent that the Costa Rican government intervene with the ASADA at Nosara’s American Project to reestablish a supportive, humble and respectful attitude towards the law, with people who are aware that, in Costa Rica, water is a public resource.