El Salvador

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Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in El Salvador

El Salvador’s Constitution contains many provisions for the protection of the environment.

Article 60 states: “In all public or private, civil or military teaching centers the instruction of national history, civics, morality, the Constitution of the Republic, human rights and the conservation of the natural resources shall be obligatory”.

In a related vein, Article 69 reads: “The State shall be equipped with the necessary and indispensable resources for permanent control of the quality of chemical, pharmaceutical and veterinary products through surveillance organisms. Likewise the State shall control the quality of food products and the environmental conditions that may affect health and well-being”.

Finally, Article 117 declares that: “It shall be the State’s duty to protect the natural resources, as well as the diversity and integrity of the environment, and to guarantee sustainable development. The protection, conservation, rational enjoyment, and the restoration or replacement of natural resources is hereby declared to be of social interest in accordance with the terms established by law. The introduction of nuclear residues and toxic waste into the national territory is hereby prohibited”.

Featured Legislation

2005: Decree No. 777 was passed, adopting mechanisms of prevention, mitigation and immediate response to natural and anthropogenic disasters (inclusive of climate change related disasters), and designating a public service of civil protection to operate in these eventualities.

2006: The Forest Strategy was unveiled. The Forestry Strategy of El Salvador (EFSA) is a sectoral national plan on forestry that aims to support the economic, social and environmental development of the country. It is a concrete response to the political will expressed by the Government of El Salvador to restore and respect the environment, a tool developed to achie ve sustainable socio-economic progress that establishes a heritage for future generations. The duration of the EFSA is of 15 years, starting in 2006 and with a review conducted every five years. The EFSA seeks to provide guidance for the successful administration and management of forestry activities at the national level by bringing together all relevant institutions and organizations, and by generating a sense of direction as a basis for decision-making. The EFSA covers the following strategic components: 1) forest planning, management and protection, 2) expansion of the forest surface, 3) valuation of timber and non-timber forest products, 4) institutional strengthening, and 5) research, education and training.

2011: ​​Legislative Decree No.714 amended the General Education Law requiring the Ministry of Education to encourage throughout the education system: environmental sustainability, ecological risk management, and adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

2012: The Forest Policy for El Salvador is a policy instrument of national scope, related to the period 2011-2030, whose objective is to guarantee the sustainability of the country’s forest resources. The Forest Policy establishes the following six specific objectives: 1) promote the ordering of forest lands; 2) promote the sustainable management of productive forests; 3) restoration of forest ecosystems, comprehensive assessment of their contribution and reduction of vulnerability; 4) modernize the institutional framework; 5) strengthen the organizational base of small and medium forestry producers; 6) adapt the legal framework that guarantees private investment in the medium and long term. The principles that support this document are sustainability, equity, agreement and participatory management.

2012: The National Environmental Policy was promulgated, offering an ambitious framework through which the government will respond to climate change and environmental degradation. The general objective of the Policy is to reverse environmental degradation and reduce vulnerability to climate change. The policy follows six lines of action that will be prioritised by the national government:

  • Restoration of damaged ecosystems and landscapes
  • Integral environmental sanitation
  • Integrated management of water resources
  • Integration of environmental policy and priorities into the general governance of the national territory
  • Environmental responsibilities and compliance
  • Adaptation and risk reduction in relation to climate change

2013: The National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) was introduced to enhance the financial and institutional resources to reduce economic and social impact of climate change.

2017: The Act Prohibiting Metal Mining was signed, prohibiting exploration, extraction, exploitation and processing, at the surface or underground, and the use of toxic chemicals in any metal mining process.

2018: The Environment and Climate Change Committee approved an approximation of 40 definitions contained in Article 9 of the four Water Law projects to advance the regulation of water in the country.

2019: The Legislative Assembly approved the Law of Integral Waste Management and Promotion of Recycling. The regulation allows the correct management of waste in the country, through the separation of organic and inorganic waste, as appropriate, and promotes the purchase and sale of paper, aluminum, and plastic, among others. The purpose of this law is to achieve the use and final disposal of waste in a sanitary and environmentally safe manner, in order to protect people’s health, the environment and promote a circular economy.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • An environmental NGO named Sí Por La Naturaleza has launched a campaign to recognize the inherent rights of natural forests in El Salvador. The organization is comprised of lawyers, engineers, university students, and others who are passionate about protecting the country’s biodiversity. With the aim of protecting, and restoring, forest rights, Sí Por La Naturaleza has teamed up with Earth Law Center to propose a “Declaration of the Rights of Natural Forests in El Salvador.” The declaration states that natural forests are living entities with certain inalienable rights, including rights to life, to integral health, to support native biodiversity, and to independent legal guardianship, amongst others. The proposed amendment also recognizes related human rights, including the right to a healthy and sustainable climate. El Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America, with 85 percent of its forested cover having disappeared since the 1960s, leaving about 5 percent of the land area forested.
  • Water shortages are becoming a reality for El Salvador, as rural villages with 600,000 people have no access to drinking water, and hundreds of thousands more experience limited or intermittent access. While the country is rich in water resources, overexploitation and pollution of water resources has severely impacted waterways. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has reported that aquifers in El Salvador have receded by 13 feet, while 90 percent of surface water sources in the country are contaminated. This is exacerbated by the presence of gang violence, corruption, and over-exploitation of natural resources by large corporate organizations. The Ministry has also predicted that El Salvador will run out of water in the next 80 years if a sustainable solution is not met. El Salvador’s water contamination is related to other environmental deficiencies – namely, untreated wastewater; runoff from industry; and agriculture and general pollution. While filtration and chlorination are often used to treat water, the amount of runoff and pollution in the El Salvadorian context is too extensive for these methods to be effective.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN): medioambiente@marn.gob.sv