Water and Privatization

Shannyn Snyder, Guest Writer

After long excluding the word "water" from its guidelines, constitutions and bills of rights since the 1940s, both the United Nations (UN) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in conferences and appearances from the late 1970s to present have verbally recognized water as a basic human need and even more importantly, a human right. Yet worldwide, water scarcity of usable, potable water threatens of lives of every population.

In the UN World Water Report of 2006, it was noted that "there is enough water for everyone" and "water insufficiency is often due to mismanagement, corruption, lack of appropriate institutions, bureaucratic inertia and a shortage of investment in both human capacity and physical infrastructure". (source) That is, a lesser known predator of world water to the commonly discussed pollution and climate warming is privatization by large corporations, and it is a large cause of water scarcity.

A new independent documentary by Irena Salina called "Flow," which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Festival and opened in select theaters in September 2008 has already received various awards and acclaim for bringing attention to the corporate side of the dwindling fresh water supply. For more information, see http://www.flowthefilm.com/.

Water for capital is a growing concern in many countries and a long-time reality for many in the third-world in particular, where citizens are being forced to pay for clean water that was once accessible in their own villages. When water for a price is being made more readily available in some areas than "free" water, which is often a one day walk for an African mother or young child, to encourage the population to "pay" for this basic need, it can cause unrest and even death for those who fight over the availability and die because they have no means in which to pay. When large transnational corporations produce annual profits higher than most gross national product of many countries, it seems like an impossible fight for the poorest consumers.

Water privatization is not just a third world problem either. In Western countries, corporations are not only bottling spring water but also tap water and selling this normally free resource back to us, and we are buying. Not only are we purchasing the bottled "free" water but large companies are both draining and polluting local rivers and waters in order to conserve enough water for their own manufacturing use, in order to be able to mix and bottle their other drinking products such as soda and tea. Due to lack of widespan global awareness, public activism is already lagging.

Even something as simple as choosing a beverage can become a political statement. A well-informed public will be key to any sustainable solution.

Children often bear the burden of walking miles each day to find water in streams and ponds. Sickness and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures.

You can change that.

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