Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lords of water

Jeff Conant in E Magazine writes a long, worthy political analysis of the water business: …The water crisis is, in large part, a crisis of financing. Estimates are that the U.S. will have to invest $23 billion annually for the next 20 years to maintain water infrastructure at its current level. To expand water services and achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation, developing countries will need to double spending to about $18 billion per year. In addition, they will have to maintain existing water infrastructure, which will add another $54 billion in spending per year.

The WWC knows about big money: It is led by two of the world’s largest private water corporations, Suez Environnement and Veolia Water. Fauchon, president of the Council, is also the president of Groupe des Eaux de Marseille, a company owned jointly by Veolia and a subsidiary of Suez. Critics such as Maude Barlow, director of Canada’s Blue Planet Project and recent appointee as senior advisor on water to the U.N. General Assembly, contend that the Council’s links to private water operators and to AquaFed, the industry lobby group strategically headquartered across from the European Union Parliament in Brussels, compromise its legitimacy. “I call them the Lords of Water,” says Barlow.

….At the same time, due in part to the overconfidence in private investment, public financing for water hit an all-time low, leaving government utilities throughout the world high and dry. Between 2000 and 2003, some 94% of World Bank loans for water and sanitation forced recipients to contract private operators, rather than use the loans to strengthen public utilities.

The WWC and the four previous forums have strongly promoted public-private partnerships (PPPs) that put water services under private ownership. PPPs in Argentina, Bolivia, the U.S. and other countries have resulted in price hikes, decreased pollution control and water cut-offs, which, in the language of the water justice movement, “deny people the right to water.” It’s a form of violence, contest water-justice activists. But despite these and other harmful impacts, the Istanbul Water Consensus, a key document of the 5th Forum, attempts to secure the commitment of local authorities to similar water policies, including private sector management……

Teggs Nose Reservoir and Bottoms Reservoir (Cheshire) lie just outside Macclesfield. Shot by David Kitching, Wikimedia Commons via the Geograph Project, under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license

No comments: