This article is a collaboration between Mongabay Latam and the digital news site GK of Ecuador.   On Sept. 18 this year, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador approved a request to hold a popular consultation, or referendum, to gauge public opinion on the permissibility of large-scale mining projects in and around the southern city of Cuenca. Pedro Palacios, the mayor of the Andean city of Cuenca, had submitted the request to the Constitutional Court on Sept. 8. In addition to their decision to allow the referendum, the court announced that if the voters decide to prohibit mining, that decision will apply in the future. The nine-justice panel also ruled that the text of the referendum should include a map by ETAPA, Ecuador’s public utilities company, showing the locations of “water recharge zones” — sources of water critical to the area’s population. Palacios requested the popular consultation with the goal of protecting the area’s páramos, or high-elevation shrublands, as well as five rivers: the Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Machángara, Tarqui and Norcay. Four of these rivers cross through Cuenca and supply water to the city. In a statement to the media outside the court building, Palacios said his request included all of the necessary arguments for the Constitutional Court to accept it so that residents of Cuenca could demonstrate, through voting, that they support protecting the city’s water sources. The origin of the request The idea for a referendum began with environmental activists from the People’s Council for Cuenca’s Water, an organization that…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer