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The Global Water Crisis Should Be a Top Priority Issue

November 10, 2010

A couple of Articles on Water issues

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The Global Water Crisis Should Be a Top Priority Issue

By Martin Khor

In recent years, climate change seems to have elbowed out other environmental issues to become the No. 1 global problem.  But the alarming problems of water — increasing scarcity, lack of access to drinking water and sanitation, pollution, flooding — are equally important and an even more immediate threat.

 On 28 July, the UN General Assembly in a historic decision recognised the right to water and sanitation as a human right.  This is a fitting recognition of the crucial importance of water to the survival of individuals and the basis for development of nations and indeed the world.

The extensive floods in Pakistan is also a current reminder of two things: the devastating impact of climate change on rainfall and the flow of water quantities; and the importance of properly managing water drainage, especially in the major rivers and waterways.

The increasing shortage of water in many countries has become a crisis.  A decade ago, it was predicted that a third of the world’s population would be facing water scarcity by 2025.  But this threshold has already been reached.  Two billion people live in countries that are water-stressed, and by 2025, two-thirds of the world population may suffer water stress, unless current trends alter.

Even more dramatic, it is predicted that wars will be fought over water this century, just as wars were and are still being fought over control of oil these past decades.

 “The global population tripled in the 20th century but water consumption went up sevenfold,” noted Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians and an expert on the global water crisis in her book Blue Covenant.  “By 2050, after we add another 3 billion to the population, humans will need an 80% increase in water supplies just to feed ourselves.  No one knows where this water is going to come from.”

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Next Article:  Watch Out: The World Bank Is Quietly Funding a Massive Corporate Water Grab

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By Scott Thill

Billions have been spent allowing corporations to profit from public water sources even though water privatization has been an epic failure in Latin America, Southeast Asia, North America, Africa and everywhere else it’s been tried. But don’t tell that to controversial loan-sharks at the World Bank. Last month, its private-sector funding arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) quietly dropped a cool 100 million euros ($139 million US) on Veolia Voda, the Eastern European subsidiary of Veolia, the world’s largest private water corporation. Its latest target? Privatization of Eastern Europe’s water resources.“Veolia has made it clear that their business model is based on maximizing profits, not long-term investment,” Joby Gelbspan, senior program coordinator for private-sector watchdog Corporate Accountability International, told AlterNet. “Both the World Bank and the transnational water companies like Veolia have clearly acknowledged they don’t want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve water access in Eastern Europe. That’s why this 100 million euro investment in Veolia Voda by the World Bank’s private investment arm over the summer is so alarming. It’s further evidence that the World Bank remains committed to water privatization, despite all evidence that this approach will not solve the world’s water crisis.”

All the evidence Veolia needs that water grabs are doomed exercises can be found in its birthplace of France, more popularly known as the heartland of water privatization. In June, the municipal administration of Paris reclaimed the City of Light’s water services from both of its homegrown multinationals Veolia and Suez, after a torrent of controversy. That’s just one of 40 re-municipilazations in France alone, which can be added to those in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and more in hopes of painting a not-so-pretty picture: Water privatization is ultimately both a horrific concept and a failed project.

“It’s outrageous that the World Bank’s IFC would continue to invest in corporate water privatizations when they are failing all over the world,” Maude Barlow, chairwoman of Food and Water Watch and the author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water, told AlterNet. “A similar IFC investment in the Philippines is an unmitigated disaster. Local communities and their governments around the world are canceling their contracts with companies like Veolia because of cost overruns, worker layoffs and substandard service.”

The Philippines is an excellent example of water privatization’s broken model.

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