(Photo: Planta de Celulosa Arauco en Mariquina | INDH)

A field observation mission by the Chilean National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) revealed that Mapuche communities in the Mariquina commune, in the Los Ríos Region, face water shortages and pollution caused by the forestry industry, reports Rio en Linea.

According to the article, the INDH carried out the field mission with a multidisciplinary team to evaluate possible violations of the rights to water, to an environment free of contamination, and to health, among others, which have been denounced by indigenous Mapuche organizations.

The Institute highlighted the lack of access to drinking water for human consumption as one of the critical observations of the field mission. Rural areas of the community are even dependent on water delivered by trucks.

The INDH reported that this water shortage would be a consequence of the high density of exotic eucalyptus plantations, which have been promoted without respecting the hydrographic basins. In a healthy, intact system, these basins should be protected with native forest. Groundwater has also been used excessively and also noted is the influence of climate change.

The INDH found that the plantations have reached the edges of the properties of small farmers and Mapuche communities, and that this has affected their subsistence agriculture. It has also affected their quality of life, due to the reduction of sunlight and the fear of fires and their consequences.

Furthermore, plantations and the associated pulp mills they supply have generated pollution that has been increasing in recent years. The community told the observation mission about the existence of gastrointestinal and ophthalmological problems caused by bad smells and air pollution.

According to the stories collected by the INDH, these cumulative negative externalities have significantly affected the quality and quantity of vegetable and fruit crops, displacing the impoverished population towards urban areas.

A more detailed diagnosis of these findings and conclusions will be developed in the final report of the INDH,  in which it will present recommendations to state agencies.