Saturday, June 13, 2009

Depraved Injustice And The Privatization Of The Global Freshwater Commons

From: And The Privatization Of The Global Freshwater Commons By Frank Joseph Smecker ... Proponents of water privatization argue that privatization of water in developing nations, where millions are subjected to abject poverty, would be a boon, delivering clean water for drinking and sanitation to many who go without. Conversely, many posit that these nations are not equipped to negotiate contracts and the poor bear the brunt of fee increases. The ensuing information will corroborate the latter allegations. In 1997, the people of Bolivia did not choose to privatize their water – it was forced upon them. Bechtel’s subsidiary, Aguas del Tunari, along with the Abengoa Corporation of Spain, went into Bolivia, enforced a forty-year contract that privatized much of their fresh water, and not soon after, rate increases quickly doubled and tripled for most of the poor water users. The private investment relied stringently on market-rate pricing. According to Jim Shultz, in an article for The Nation on January 28, 2005 titled “The Politics of Water in Brazil,” the cost of water and sewage hookup, in El Alto, was more than half a year’s income for those making minimum wage. The contract was so draconian that protest broke out in the streets of Cochabamba, the people demanding an immediate rescinding of the water contract. The protest led to martial law to save the companies’ contract, which led to the death of a teenage boy, and the wounding of more than a hundred people. Over the course of five years in Bolivia, there have been two citizen revolts decrying the privatization of their water. Bechtel’s contract was indeed cancelled, but in 2001 Bechtel filed suit against the Bolivian government, claiming they were entitled to $25 million in compensation for the loss of future profits. By the end of 2000, more than 93 countries worldwide had partially privatized water or wastewater services. The larger the company, the more control. According to research done by Elizabeth Brubaker at the Energy Probe Research Foundation, at the largest scale, private water companies construct, own, and run water systems around the globe, raking in revenues of more than $30 billion – excluding revenue from the sales of bottled water. Most of this money does not make it back into the communities, but is rather transferred to the transnationals. The largest players in water privatization are two French transnationals: Veolia Environment (owned by media conglomerate Vivendi) and Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux whose water and wastewater businesses are run by its subsidiary Ondeo... [Click title for entire article, as usual]

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