By Preetika Bhateja:
The fresh water available on this planet is enough for our human needs, but runaway global warming, unchecked toxic pollution and climate change has led to a great shortage as two thirds of the world’s population will face acute water shortages as soon as the year 2025.
The World Bank Group (that has been the largest funder of water management in the developing world, with loans and financing) claims to have found a ‘panacea’ to this problem. It pushes privatization of water as a key solution. In simple terms, corporations should own every drop of water on the planet and you’re not getting any unless you pay up. In the decades since the World Bank’s initial support, we have seen the results of water privatization: It doesn’t work. Its own data reveals that a high percentage of its private water projects are in distress, and a 34 per cent failure rate for all private water and sewerage contracts entered into between 2000 and 2010.
Why is the interference of multinationals unfavourable? If they come in, rate increases = more expensive services (ask Bolivians), there is no accountability to consumers, only to shareholders, diminishes local control and public rights, can leave not only the rural poor but also the urban poor with no access to clean water, undermines water quality (yes even if corporate sector invests in water, there is no guarantee of better water quality).
Some would argue that if water was a commodity which you had to pay for, people would actually start respecting it and not waste it. Companies (including the ones like Coca Cola etc.) would also be unable to deplete groundwater with indemnity since they would have to pay. There would now be an incentive to develop advanced water purification that would recycle water or make potable water from sea water. But then, what will happen if NestlÃ© itself is given the charge of water, a company that already earns a $35 billion in annual profit from water bottle sales alone?
Veolia Water, the 50% partner in Nagpur’s private water operator Orange City Water Private Limited, earned the questionable recognition after it was awarded the Pinocchio Award, the infamous award that highlights violations of social and environmental rights. Should the role of NestlÃ© and Veolia, in ensuring the health of the global population, be graciously welcomed?
If you look at the bigger picture, more questions crop up. Can natural resources be called as public resources? Who actually has ownership and control of the planet’s land and natural resources? If we claim natural resources as our possession, shouldn’t we start thinking about the sustainabilityÂ ofÂ our water wealth? Investing in public water systems, governments taking initiative to allot a limited number of litres to each household without any discrimination, recycling and careful utilization seems to be the only answer if we want to steer clear of privatized water.
As an example, Israel recycles 75 per cent of its water and leads the way in conservation of water globally, without any privatization mechanisms. Why not learn from this?