A recent story in the Toronto Star about Council of Canadians head Maude Barlow helping a Bolivian village install a public water system provided insight into the fight against water privatization, particularly the world’s poorest countries.
“We have a really strong global social movement, and we need to step in with our own alternative,” said Barlow. “We want to get water established as a human right in a United Nations’ convention, one that also demands that water be delivered as a public service.”
“There is a growing agreement that the capacity of privatization to generate investment – once considered the magic solution to the world’s water woes – has turned out to be a dangerous illusion,” wrote the reporter.
The writer quoted a March 2006 a British study called Pipe Dreams, which found that the private sector has done an abysmal job of connecting poor people to water. The report, written with the support of Public Services International, asserts that governments, not private companies, have more than a obligation for getting water to their people; it’s their duty.
“Private companies only invest where they can make a profit, not where there is the greatest need,” said Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement, the group that published the study shortly before the United Nations’ World Water Day this past spring.
Many of the largest corporations involved in the privatization of water and waste management around the world are European-based. Instead of racking up victories in the waters wars across South and Central America, these companies are beginning to move back to Europe. Even powerful advocates of water privatization, such as the World Bank, have begun to speak about privatization’s failures.
There is growing support for public water, from every social sphere. The United Church of Canada recently passed a resolution to discourage the use of bottled water by its parishioners, a first step in seeking the redefinition of access to water as a human right in Canada and around the world.
(With files from the BBC, Toronto Star)