Water Health Educator - Promoting advocacy for access to clean water
Global: Water Privatization
 
Water Privatization
 by Katherine Fite
 
According to a Human Development Report issued by the UN in 2006, over 1 billion people in developing countries lack access to clean drinking water.  In addition, lack of water is significantly related to poverty.  Over 66% of people that have inadequate access to water live on less than $2 a day.  Yet, those people who lack access to clean water are usually most affected by the privatization of water resources. In short, water privatization is the participation of private sector organizations in the provision of water services.
 
Many areas of the world face problems of water privatization; mostly in developing countries. For example, India faces water privatization from a very well known beverage company: Coca-Cola.  In 2000, Coca-Cola built a bottling plant in a small, impoverished, agricultural community in southern India. Because they needed water to produce Coke products,  Coca-Cola began to take 1.5 million liters of water daily from the community’s wells and aquifers. Consequently, the water table lowered and farmers were forced to drill deeper for water.  In 2004, the already water impoverished experienced drought and the community took action.  Farmers staged protests and demanded that Coke abandon their bottling facility.  Coca-Cola denies claims that water levels dropped and say that they are not taking as much water compared to the surrounding agricultural activities.  The issue is still ongoing and is awaiting trial in India’s supreme court.
 
Another instance of water privatization in an impoverished community is the case of a semi-desert city in Bolivia called Cochabamba.  Because a pressure from the World Bank, the city’s water supply company privatized the water supply through Agua del Tunari, led by Water International based in England.  By 2000, water bills soared and people who were already struggling to survive, could not pay their bills.  In February, The Coalition in Defense of Water and Life marched through Cochabama and protest the privatization of their water supply.  They asserted that water was a basic human right and not meant to be used as merchandise.  The Bolivian government finally decided to reverse its legislation on water privatization and Agua del Tunari no longer controls the people of Cochabamba’s water supply. 
 
Cochabamba is not the only example of failed water privatization. Again, with pressure from the World Bank, Tanzania aimed to privatize water the water in the nation’s capital : Dar es Salaam.  After only two years into a ten-year contract with City Water Services, Tanzania backed out.   Tanziana claims City Water Services failed to repair the city’s water and sewage systems and the water supply had actually deteriorated.   In 2008, an international tribunal ordered that Biwater (the umbrella company of City Water Services) pay Tanzania $8 million dollars for failing to provide adequate water and sewage services to the nation’s capital.
           
Since 1990, water privatization has been growing rapidly; many think that there are substantial benefits to this practice.  Yet history of failing privatization attempts and the problems that arose from such attempts shows that water privatization is not a viable option, especially in developing countries.
 
Citation
 
Shiva, Vandana. Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit. Cambridge, MA: South End, 2002. Print. Pg 102, 103
 
 
 
 
Water Wars and Blue Gold: A Synthesis on Water Privatization
By Jennifer Young
 
“Hands off! Get your hands off the faucet and no one gets hurt!” While this statement made sound strange out of context, that is the direction humanity is headed in if water privatization continues, at least according to Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, and Tony Clarke. Shiva is the author of the book Water Wars while Maude and Barlow are the joint authors of the book Blue Gold, which was later made into a full-length documentary film.
 
Water privatization has occurred due to one basic truth that humanity must recognize: the world has a finite supply of water. Though water is one of the most basic human needs, many of the world’s seven billion people deal with water shortage on a daily basis. By 2025, it is expected that 56 countries will face water scarcity or water stress. Water shortage is so serious of a problem that the United Nations incorporated it into its list of Millennium Development Goals. By 2015, the objective is to halve the number of people who do not have access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
 
Water privatization has arisen as a result of corporations capitalizing on the demand for bottled water as water becomes scarcer. Companies like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Bechtel, and Vivendi Environment are enclosing the water commons to make profit as the truth dawns that people will do and pay virtually anything to have access to clean drinking water. According to Shiva, water wars are a struggle between these profit-focused, greedy corporations and the millions of species and billions of people who need water for sustenance. She describes water privatization as a form of corporate terrorism against the Global South and simultaneously, the cause of terrorism as people in water-scarce regions fight for access to water. In the documentary Blue Gold, it is made evident that the Global North does not understand the seriousness of water shortage because it is unsustainably over-consuming water that the Global South needs; thus, the problem is only made evident to those living in the Global South. Humanity is using the ground water faster than it can be replenished by the water cycle and thus, desertifying the world.
 
There are two sides to most struggles and water privatization does have some benefits. Organizations like the World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) advocate privatization for developing countries as a means to stimulate the economy and pay back their debt-relief loans. When corporations establish a presence in a region, they can provide jobs to the community, helping the locality to become more prosperous. On a larger scale, they generate revenue that helps the nation’s GDP increase. Privatization can also lead to better employee-performance than publicly owned enterprises because oftentimes governments only make improvements when there is a political benefit. Its proponents also argue that privatization leads to less corruption than public ownership because any corruption in a privately-owned enterprise is isolated and does not disrupt the cash flow of the company.
 
From the standpoint of the wealthy, privatization can be beneficial. However, the facts show that overall privatization is detrimental to society, to the environment, and to the economy. Privatization can in theory benefit local economies in developing countries; in practice it benefits the corporate business owners and robs the local economies of job opportunities by destroying local industry. Whole communities can lose their livelihoods because the presence of a corporation destroys local businesses. This hurts the economy. When people cannot earn money, it impacts their quality of life. Decreased quality of life includes depression, suicidality, malnutrition, drug use, and can lead to conflict within the community. Because business owners from the Global North are not directly affected by the effects of industrial processes, they are usually not concerned with the environmental effects in the areas around their factories. In Shiva’s book, she explains “over-exploitation of water and disruption of the water cycle creates absolute scarcity that markets cannot substitute with other commodities” (Shiva, 2002, p. 15). Water scarcity leads to land degradation, desertification, and erosion.
 
Water privatization is emerging as one of the latest tenets of globalization. While the objective of it can be noble when it is improve economies in developing countries to get them out of debt, more often the motivations are profit only, regardless of the human and environmental costs. Water privatization is not a sustainable means to stimulate the economy and actually is more detrimental than it is beneficial.
 
Works Cited
 
Bozzo, S. (Producer and Director). (2008). Blue Gold [Motion Picture]. United States: Purple Turtle Films.
 
Shiva, Vandana. 2002. Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit. Cambridge, MA: South End.
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