Tag Archives: water privatization

Mexico: Police crack down on community fight against water project

May 25, 2014. Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas

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Dozens of Mexican civilians and police were injured on May 21 in a violent confrontation over water resources in the centuries-old village of San Bartolo Ameyalco, now part of Alvaro Obregón delegación (borough) in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City). Over the past year a group of village residents has fought against a plan that the Alvaro Obregón government announced in April 2013 to run pipes off the natural spring now supplying water to San Bartolo Ameyalco. When workers arrived, with a police escort, in the morning of May 21 to lay down pipes for the project, residents armed with clubs, rocks and Molotov bombs attempted to block the construction. The protesters set up flaming barricades and detained at least two police agents, while the police arrested nine protesters, according to villagers. By the end of the day the village was without electricity and was surrounded by some 2,000 DF police agents, who ensured that the construction could proceed. About 50 police agents and 50 to 70 residents were reportedly injured.

According to delegación head Leonel Luna, the project’s goal is to use the spring to supply potable water to 20,000 area residents—without affecting access to water by the San Bartolo Ameyalco community. DF head of government Miguel Angel Mancera Espinosa, of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (DF), claimed on May 22 that he’d received reports blaming the protests on water vendors concerned that the increased supply of water would cut into their sales. DF security secretary Jesús Rodríguez Almeida charged that the attacks on police agents constituted what he called “citizen brutality.”

Residents insisted that Leonel Luna’s plan is not to supply water to nearby neighborhoods but to divert the water to the Centro Santa Fe, a huge shopping mall about five miles away. Hundreds of villagers gathered in an assembly in San Bartolo Ameyalco’s main plaza on May 22 and announced that they would prevent the new pipe system from going into operation. They said they no longer recognized Luna as their representative; their only authority from now on would be the village assembly, they decided, and political parties would not be allowed to intervene. (Revolution News, May 21; La Jornada, Mexico, May 22, May 22May 23)

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Latin America-Caribbean, Water

KPFK Earth Minute: Water privatization promoted at WTO meeting in Bali

By Anne Petermann, December 3, 2013. Source: KPFK Sojourner Truth Radio

kpfk_logoGlobal Justice Ecology Project teams up with KPFK Sojourner Truth Radio each week to produce the Earth Minute and Earth Watch segments. Listen this week for updates on the WTO ministerial in Bali, Indonesia, where water privatization is on the table and peasant movements are rising up against the continued commodification of life and land.

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, KPFK, Politics, Water, WTO

Water financialization exposed in new report on eve of WTO meeting

BALI (INDONESIA), December 2, 2013 – On the eve of a key World Trade Organization meeting in Bali [1], Friends of the Earth International launched a new report exposing how trade and investment strategies, including WTO negotiations, act as economic drivers of water financialization. [2]

The report, “Economic Drivers of Water Financialization” [3] includes 12 cases, from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Colombia, El Salvador, England, Mexico, Mozambique, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, United States, and Uruguay.

The cases show how many corporations, financial institutions, trade agreements and cooperation strategies are paving the way for water privatization and financialization.

The report also exposes that these factors often cause territorial conflicts while providing greater impunity and profits for the corporations concerned.

William Waren, from Friends of the Earth US, one of the authors of the publication, said:

“International trade and investment agreements threaten people’s right to water. It is essential that nations that are members of the WTO and other trade and investment agreements listen to their people and stop any attempt by corporate and financial interests to turn water into a mere commodity traded on international markets. The traditional view under international law is that water is a natural resource and part of the public commons, not a good or product.”

The report includes proposals from communities around the world to secure community water management and to keep water as a common good and a human right.

A key case study of this report exposes the major injustice of the water situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip), where locals suffer from structural water scarcity due to inequitable distribution.

The Palestinian population endures significant water deficits, and most water resources are concentrated in the hands of Israel. In some places, Palestinian farmers have been forced to purchase water at high prices from water sources controlled by the Israeli Water Company. This leads to many problems, including increased production costs for agricultural crops,” said Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, who led a solidarity visit to Palestine in October 2013.

The report includes a case study from Colombia. Danilo Urrea, from Friends of the Earth Colombia, said:

In Colombia, international cooperation supposedly focused on the development of a national policy framework for water and water management has been turned into an investment protection system. This is a huge problem which also prevents us from delivering more successful public, community-based water management solutions such as our ‘aqueductos communitarios’.”

 NOTES

[1] For more information about the 3-6 Dec. WTO meeting visit https://mc9.wto.org/

[2] “Financialization is a term that describes an economic system or process that attempts to reduce all value that is exchanged […] either into a financial instrument or a derivative of a financial instrument,” according to Wikipedia. For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financialization

[3] The report is online at http://www.foei.org/water-financialization

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Filed under Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Water, WTO

The ancestral values we inherited: Protecting Indigenous water, land, and culture in Mexico

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell, 31 August 2013. Source: Other Worlds

Saúl Atanasio Roque Morales, second from the left, in Mexico. Photo: Fernanda Robinson.

Saúl Atanasio Roque Morales, second from the left, in Mexico. Photo: Fernanda Robinson.

The following is from an interview with Saúl Atanasio Roque Morales, a Xoxocotla indigenous man from the state of Morelos, Mexico. He is a member of the Council of Peoples and the Xoxocotla Drinking Water Association.

Within our indigenous community of Xoxocotla, we continue to hold the ancestral values we inherited. It never crosses our mind to leave them behind. Because in daily life we are always in contact with nature, with our lands, with our water, with our air. We live in harmony with nature because we don’t like the way that modernity is advancing, destroying our territory and our environment. We believe technological modernity is better named a death threat.

We still watch our children chase the butterflies and the birds. We see the harmony between the crops and the land. Above all, we respect our water and we continue to perform ceremonies that give thanks for the water. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Water

From water wars to water scarcity: Bolivia’s cautionary tale

By Emily Achtenberg, June 6, 2013. Source: North American Congress on Latin America

When Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived at the new Uyuni airport last August and found no water running from the tap, he publicly reprimanded and promptly dismissed his Minister of Water. As it happened, the pipes were merely frozen. The incident underscores the critical—and highly symbolic—role of water in the politics of this landlocked Andean nation.

Water Wars

Cochabamaba 2000. Photo: thehealthculture.com

Cochabamaba 2000. Photo: thehealthculture.com

In April 2000, a popular struggle against water privatization in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, ignited a chain of events that profoundly altered the nation’s political landscape. The Water War was precipitated when SEMAPA, Cochabamba’s municipal water company, was sold to a transnational consortium controlled by U.S.-based Bechtel in exchange for debt relief for the Bolivian government and new World Bank loans to expand the water system.

A new law allowed Bechtel to administer water resources that SEMAPA did not even control, including the communal water systems prevalent in the ever-expanding southern periphery and in the countryside, which had never been hooked into the grid. Local farmer-irrigators feared that “even the rain” collected and distributed for centuries by their associations would fall within Bechtel’s grasp.

These concerns, along with a 50% average increase in water rates for SEMAPA customers, prompted the formation of a broad alliance of farmers, factory workers, rural and urban water committees, neighborhood organizations, students, and middleclass professionals in opposition to water privatization. They were joined by the militant federation of coca growers from the Chapare, led by then labor leader Evo Morales, who lent his considerable expertise in organizing civic strikes, road blockades, and massive popular assemblies. Eventually, Bechtel was forced to abrogate its contract, return SEMAPA to public control, and withdraw its legal claim against the Bolivian government for $50 million in compensation.
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U.N.’s water agenda at risk of being hijacked by big business

By Thalif Deen, February 11, 2013.  Source: Inter Press Service

Amidst growing new threats of potential conflicts over fast-dwindling water resources in the world’s arid regions, the United Nations will commemorate 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC).

But Maude Barlow, chairperson, Council of Canadians and a former senior advisor on water to the president of the U.N. General Assembly in 2008-2009, warns the U.N.’s water agenda is in danger of being hijacked by big business and water conglomerates.

“We don’t need the United Nations to promote private sector participation under the guise of greater ‘cooperation’ when these same companies force their way into communities and make huge profits from the basic right to water and sanitation,” Barlow told IPS.

At this time of scarcity and financial crisis, she said, “We need the United Nations to ensure that governments are fulfilling their obligations to provide basic services rather than relinquishing to transnational corporations.”

The Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which has been designated the lead U.N. agency, formally launched IYWC at a ceremony in the French capital Monday.

In New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of the new pressures on water, including growing populations and climate change. One-third of the world’s 7.1 billion people already live in countries with moderate to high water stress, he said.

“Competition is growing between farmers and herders; industry and agriculture; town and country,” Ban said. Upstream and downstream, and across borders, “We need to cooperate for the benefit of all now and in the future… Let us harness the best technologies and share the best practices to get more crop per drop.”

Back in December 2010, the 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 2013 as the IYWC, following a proposal by Tajikistan.

The 2013 World Water Day, which will take place on Mar. 22, will be dedicated to water cooperation.

Barlow told IPS big water corporations have gained influence in almost every agency working at the United Nations.

The CEO Water Mandate, a public-private sector initiative launched by the United Nations in July 2007 and designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices, puts corporations such as Nestle, Coca Cola, Suez and Veolia directly into a position of influence over global water policy and presents a clear conflict of interest, she said.

“For-profit private companies cannot uphold the public interest if it conflicts with their bottom line,” said Barlow, who is also founder of the Blue Planet Project.

Even the World Water Development Report is now advised by an industry group on “business, trade, finance and involvement of the private sector,” she added.

Tom Slaymaker, senior policy analyst on governance at the London-based WaterAid, told IPS the United Nations recognised the “human right to water and sanitation” back in 2010.

“But today over 780 million lack improved water supplies and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation facilities,” he added.

The 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation will be a critical year for the United Nations to reflect on why universal access has not yet been achieved, he said.

Slaymaker said it’s also time to reflect on the kind of political leadership and new forms of partnership that are required to accelerate progress towards universal access as part of the emerging post-2015 development framework of the United Nations.

According to the United Nations, the primary objective of IYWC is to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services.

Since the General Assembly recognised the human right to water and sanitation, a number of countries, including Mexico, Kenya, Bolivia, The Dominican Republic, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ecuador, El Salvador, The Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and France, have either adopted laws recognising the right to water or amended their constitutions to do so.

The Vatican recently recognised the human right to water and added that “water is not a commercial product but rather a common good that belongs to everyone.”

And last June, all 193 member states signed the Rio+20 Declaration which includes the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation as a universal right.

Specifically zeroing on the role of the private sector, Barlow told IPS that corporations are among those pledging their support for IYWC.

Aguas de Barcelona, the water company at the heart of a fierce debate in Spain over control of drinking water, is participating, she pointed out.

So are “corporations who fought us on the right to water are now scrambling to claim it in their own image”.

She quoted Nestle as saying that 1.5 percent of the world’s water should be put aside for the poor and rest should be put on the open market.

If Nestle gets its way, she argued, there will one day be a water cartel similar to big oil, making life and death decisions about who gets water and under what circumstances every day.

“But at least we have this recognised and acknowledged right that no one should be allowed to appropriate water for personal gain while others die from an inability to pay for water,” she said.

With time, “we will build consensus around the right to water and the understanding that water is a common heritage and a public trust.”

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Members of the Global Water Justice Movement Refute Profit Maximization as Water Governance Model

“… some water justice activists in the audience put on red clown noses to drive the message that the World Water Forum is one big corporate fair.”

Special to Climate Connections by Levi Francisco, IBON International 

14 March 2012, MARSEILLE, France—On the second day of the World Water Forum, a water debate titled, “Private/Public Involvement in the Provision of Water and Sanitation Services,” was held at the Palais des Congres, Parc Chanot. The debate was moderated by Paul Barrett.

Arguing for the side of public services were Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron of IBON International who acts as coordinator of Water for the People Network and David Boys who is the Utilities Officer at Public Services International. Championing the arguments for privatization, on the other hand, were  are Gerard Payen, President of AQUAFED, the International Federation of Private Water Operators and Mamadou Dia who is Managing Director of Sénégalaise des Eaux.

Boys mainly pointed out how supporting public services in water and sanitation instead of resorting to privatization has given way to “low risks and high returns.” Such returns include health, family stability, and community coherence, which are among the many other socio-cultural aspects that cannot be taken into account within market mechanisms.

Lauron talked about the continuing ill-effects of the failed privatization experiment of Metro Manila’s water services, touted by the World Bank to be a ‘model’ of public-private partnerships. The Philippines, Lauron mentioned, now has the highest water rates in Asia, with an almost 1,000% increase in prices since the start of privatization. And worst, there are still more than 200 ‘waterless communities’ in Metro Manila, not serviced because the private contractors did not think they were ‘financially viable’.

Machines will save us. Photo: courtesy IBON

On the other side of the panel, Payen stated that the debate should not be about private participation versus public involvement but being able to guarantee the best solutions to deliver this service to the other 40% of the global population which are being served by neither. As the AQUAFED president was delivering his presentation, some water justice activists in the audience put on red clown noses to drive the message that the World Water Forum is one big corporate fair.

Diametrically opposite to the situation in Manila, Dia expounded on the case of Senegal, illustrating how partnership with the private sector has led to reforms in the water sector, promoting democratic participation and sustainability in his country.

The debate highlighted the inherent contradiction between private and public participation in the water sector. But beyond this, the more important issue is that of governance of water resource management. Water is common good that should not be governed by the logic of profit maximization that is best exemplified by private corporations.  Reclaiming public water and upholding the human right to water are the real solutions to the water crisis. This is the message of the Alternative World Water Forum that is taking place from March 14-16 at Docks des Suds.

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