Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage intergovernmental committee for the



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Original: English and French



CONVENTION FOR THE SAFEGUARDING OF

THE INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE



INTERGOVERNMENTAL COMMITTEE FOR THE

SAFEGUARDING OF THE INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE

Fourth session



Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

28 September to 2 October 2009


Nomination for inscription on the Representative List in 2009 (Reference No. 00171)

A.

State Party: Spain

B.

Name of element: Irrigators’ Tribunals of the Spanish Mediterranean coast: the Council of Wise Men of the plain of Murcia and the Water Tribunal of the plain of Valencia

C.

Community(ies), group(s) or, if applicable, individual(s) concerned:

Council of Good Men: irrigators’ community of the Landowners’ Board of Murcia’s Watered Land.

Tribunal of Waters: irrigators’ communities of the Quart, Benàger-Faitanar, Tormos, Mislata, Mestalla, Favara, Rascanya, Rovella and Xirivella canals.

D.

Brief textual description of the nominated element:

The Council of Good Men and the Tribunal of Waters are the justice-imparting bodies within the irrigating communities traditional to Murcia and Valencia’s watered lands (the Huerta de Murcia and the Vega de Valencia). Their members are farmers elected on an autonomous, democratic basis by the users of irrigation canals. Both courts decide on irrigation disputes orally, promptly, economically, publicly, and impartially. Their verdicts are generally conformed to by reason of the authority and respect credited to either court, based on the transparent equity of their procedures and on the farmer-judges being acknowledged by their peers as equitable persons with expert knowledge of usage and custom in traditional irrigating agriculture and of its underlying natural milieu. Their efficient contribution to maintenance of the vast, complex watering systems of Murcia and Valencia, built in the Andalusi epoch (Centuries IXth to XIIIth AD) by irrigating communities ruled –as they are today- by principles of autonomy, cooperation, transparency, mutual help and respect, shared access, sound management and sustainable usage of a scarce common resource, water, account for their millenary survival and their integration in the Spanish judicial system with equal guarantee and juridical validity to those of any other civil court.

1.

Identification of the element

1.a.

Name of element:

Irrigators’ Courts of the Spanish Mediterranean Façade: the Council of Good Men of Murcia’s Watered Land and the Tribunal of Waters of Valencia’s Watered Land



1.b.

Other name(s) of the element, if any:

Consejo de Hombres Buenos de la Huerta de Murcia (Castilian)

Tribunal de las Aguas de la Vega de Valencia (Castilian)

Tribunal de les Aigües de la Vega de València (Valencian)



1.c.

Identification of the community(ies), group(s) or, if applicable, individual(s) concerned and their location:

The Council of Good Men is made up of seven members belonging to the Landowners’ Board of Murcia’s Watered Land irrigating community (Junta de Hacendados de la Huerta de Murcia). This court consists of President, Secretary - each with the same capacities at the Landowners’ Board -, two Speaking Procurers for the estates of Aljufía Major Canal, two Speaking Procurers for the estates of Alquibla Major Canal (also called Barreras Major Canal), and one Speaking Procurer for the estates of Churra la Nueva Canal.

The Council has two permanent members – President and Secretary -, the five Speaking Procurers, being renewed over the year, which allows for more frequent rotation of those posts and collective sharing of responsibilities. The Landowners’ Board is made up by 23.313 irrigating farmers, falling down into 74 estates ascribed to the irrigation canals deriving from the river Segura. Their functions include managing and distributing the water proportionally among the farmers according to their respective needs. As to representation before the irrigating community’s governing bodies, one or several procurers per channel are elected, totaling at present 509. The election system for the Speaking Procurers to the Council of Good Men is an annual draw randomly assigning such members for the following year’s sessions.

The Tribunal of Waters of Valencia’s Watered Land is made up by eight syndics or representatives democratically elected by the members of the irrigating communities of the Quart, Benàger-Faitanar, Tormos, Mislata, Mestalla, Favara, Rascanya and Rovella canals, which take their waters from the river Turia. Two of them, elected through polls by the body of syndics, hold the offices of President and Vice-president for a two-year term. These syndics can be substituted in their office functions by deputy syndics, called Vice-syndics, also elected by the irrigators’ communities. For fairness sake, custom so rules that when the President belongs to a canal on the left bank of the river, the Vice-president must belong to a right bank canal and vice versa, because the President must abstain from directing the trial or pronouncing a verdict when the party denounced belongs to an irrigators’ community of the same river bank as he. Furthermore, the syndic of the irrigators’ community to which the denounced party belongs must abstain from dealing with the case and from voting a verdict, and must confine himself to answering questions from the President or Vice-president. When the Tribunal deals with a case concerning Xirivella Canal, a major arm branching off Mislata Canal, which has an irrigating community of its own, the Mislata syndic leaves his corporate seat at court to that of Xirivella. The latter is, in addition, fully entitled to take part in the election of the President and the Vice-president of the Tribunal, and in the Syndics’ Board, executive and administrative in character, ensuing the public trial session. The Tribunal, acting as executive body, cares for equitable distribution of water among the nine communities and defends the common interests versus third parties. The nine irrigating communities amount to a total number of 11.691 members.



1.d.

Geographic location and range of the element:

The Council of Good Men of Murcia’s Watered Land and Tribunal of Waters of Valencia’s Watered Land are located in Spain’s Southeastern Mediterranean façade, in the Murcia and Valencia Autonomous Communities, respectively.

The Council of Good Men of Murcia’s Watered Land sits on Thursday mornings, at ten o’clock in the Plenary Sessions Room of the Murcia’s City Hall, this being the only institution other than the City Council to have the privilege of using this Royal Hall. The jurisdiction of The Council of Good Men of Murcia’s Watered Land extends over Murcia’s Watered Land district and reaches the lands watered by the acequias (primary canals) and azarbes (second-use water channels) which are dependant from the Landowners’ Board of Murcia’s Watered Land: 14.254 hectares stretching over the Alcantarilla, Beniel, Murcia and Santomera municipal areas.

The Tribunal of Waters of Valencia’s Watered Land holds its sessions every Thursday at noon, at the Apostles’ Gate of Valencia Cathedral. Its jurisdiction is restricted to Valencia’s Watered Land district. Specifically, it extends over the lands irrigated by canals dependant from Quart, Benàger-Faitanar, Tormos, Mislata, Mestalla, Favara, Rascanya, Rovella and Xirivella irrigators’ communities: 3.471 hectares spreading over the municipalities of Valencia, Paterna, Burjassot, Godella, Tavernes Blanques, Alboraia, Almàssera, Manises, Quart de Poblet, Aldaia, Alaquàs, Torrent, Picanya, Mislata, Xirivella, Paiporta, Benetússer, Sedaví, Alfafar, Lloc Nou de la Corona, Massanassa, Catarroja and Albal.

Besides the irrigators’ communities of Murcia and Valencia watered lands (huertas), there exist in the Iberian Peninsula numerous age-old traditional irrigators’ communities that irrigate through canals (acequias), especially in the arid and semi-arid lands of the Mediterranean shore. Such is the case with, among others, the irrigators’ communities of River Genil‘s Major Canal, of Tarramonta and Arabuleila Canals (Granada’s Watered Land), of Lorca, of Calasparra’s Major Canal and of Molina de Segura’s Irrigated Estates (in Murcia Region), as well as those of river Jucar’s Royal Acequia, Moncada’s Royal Canal and Sagunto’s Major Canal (in Valencia Autonomous Community). Most of them rely on courts or water juries which, as is the case with The Council of Good Men and The Tribunal of Waters, serve the purpose that water-users may solve their internal conflicts in an autonomous manner. Sometimes, the irrigators’ communities themselves are even named after those juridical instances; which aptly proves their strategic contribution to the good functioning of traditional irrigation. Such is the case with the Exclusive Water Court of Callosa de Segura, the Exclusive Water Court of Orihuela and surrounding localities, the Water Court at Rojales’ Mayor’s Office and Guardamar’s Exclusive Water Court, among others.

However, The Council of Good Men of Murcia’s Watered Land and the Tribunal of Waters of Valencia’s Watered Land are the only traditional, consuetudinary courts acknowledged by the Spanish juridical system, which in practice means a special juridical status, so that their verdicts cannot be appealed against before ordinary courts.


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