Ecuador Court Claims Pollution Violates Rights of Quito's Machángara River

An Ecuadorean court has declared that pollution is an ongoing human rights abuse on the Machángara River which supplies the capital city,

An Ecuadorean court has declared that pollution is an ongoing human rights abuse on the Machángara River which supplies the capital city, Quito. Given the fact that unlike most constitutions in Latin America, Ecuador’s constitution recognizes, natural entities in a given article of the Constitution this ruling was a giant leap in environmental activism in that region.

The city government of Quito has appealed the court’s decision, which came in response to a complaint filed by activists from the group Kitu Kara. Darío Iza, speaking on behalf of Kitu Kara, hailed the ruling as “historic,” emphasizing the river’s integral role in the daily lives of Quito’s 2.6 million residents.“This is historic because the river runs right through Quito, and because of its influence, people live very close to it, said Darío Iza.

The court’s ruling mandates that while the appeals process unfolds, the government must devise and implement a comprehensive plan to address the pollution plaguing the Machángara River. Over the years, the river has become a recipient of various effluents and contaminants from urban activities, particularly from inadequate wastewater treatment facilities in the city.

Originating high in the Andes mountains, the Machángara River serves as a critical water source and ecological corridor, yet its health has deteriorated significantly by the time it reaches urban Quito. The river faces challenges such as high levels of solid waste and a near-total absence of proper wastewater treatment, leading to severely diminished oxygen levels that jeopardize aquatic life.

“The river carries away tons of garbage that comes down from gullies and hillsides,” noted the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.

It is significant that Ecuador is among those countries in the world that recognizes the rights of natural features in its Constitution, which signifies the country’s focus on the protection of the environment. Although there are countries in Latin America and North America that include constitutional rights of a clean environment, it is Ecuador that recognized rights of nature legal entities in the field of environmental jurisprudence.