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Water Privatization

Water Privatization

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Published by Veronica S Leandrez

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Published by: Veronica S Leandrez on Nov 16, 2011
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11/16/2011

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Water sharing is a necessity for peace among nations because water is a necessity forlife. Water shortage causes conflict. Peace among all the world's peoples depends onour ability to share water resources.The deprivation and control of water by private interests is a source of poverty, ofinequality, of social injustice, and of great disparities on our planet. The internationalgoverning bodies have failed to make water a priority, meanwhile, one billion people inthe world are currently being denied their basic right to safe drinking water. It was onlylast year, in July of 2010- after more than 35 years of intellectual discourse among ourrepresentatives, that the United Nations finally publicly obliged to declare water a basichuman right. (
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=35456&Cr=SANITATION
)Research suggests that the world already has the finance, technology, and capacity toend the water crisis. The world is not running out of clean water but millions of peopledo live in areas of mounting water stress due to the effects of industry and capitalism.Competition for water will surely increase in the decades ahead, if we do not acceptresponsibility for the current situation, and make the necessary adjustments. If we allowthe privatization of water to continue, 1.4 billion people who live where waterconsumption exceeds recharge capacity will suffer, along with the respectiveecosystems. The right to clean water is blatantly being controlled by a minority. Crossborder conflicts could continue to intensify and break out into more open warfare."Ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation world-wide would save the lives of 1.8billion children each year, and grant dignity to over 2.6 billion people who live withoutsanitation." (
www.gm.undp.org/Reports/report_youth_hdr.pdf 
)
We must ensure environmental sustainability in order to ensure peace, equality, andfreedom on planet Earth. Over 1.6 billion euros a year are spent on health systems inorder to treat water-born diseases world-wide, when universal access to basic waterand sanitation would prevent them. The amount of money needed to give universalaccess to clean water is spent by our governments on their military hardware in lessthan one month's time. While in rural West Bengal, India, huge advances in sanitation,health, and community development have been achieved at incredibly low cost.A decade ago, on World Water Day of 2001, the UN Secretary General challenged theworld to solve the water crisis, and for the last thirty years, EU law has beenincreasingly replacing national legislation concerning water use and protection.Community-wide standards for water protection was part of the first wave of EU politicsin the 1970's, followed by health-related directives such as the Drinking Water Directive,as well as legislation covering certain polluting economic activities. While theenvironmental directives have in the past helped to continually improve and secure theposition of municipal water supplies by introducing protection of water sources, theintended new wave of economic legislation is likely to excerpt the opposite effect.
 
Given the difficulties in expressing ecological and social factors in monetary terms, thecorresponding effects are likely to be underestimated.Despite the early environmental water protection directives adopted since the early1980's, the quality of most European waters has continued to deteriorate until today.Out of 129 Black List substances causing water pollution, only 18 have been regulatedby the EU's Dangerous Substance Directive. In 2013, the Dangerous SubstanceDirective will be replaced by the Water Framework Directive. and the list of prioritysubstances has been annulled and there has been much reluctance to implement eventhe existing legislations and provisions over the past decades.(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dangerous_Substances_Directive_ %2867/548/EEC%29
 )
Groundwater is of enormous importance for the European Union's drinking watersupplies, yet the future of ground water protection in the EU is presently uncertain. TheGroundwater Directive (
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/groundwater/policy/current_framework/new_directive_en.htm
) willalso be repealed in 2013, and member States and the European Parliament have beenunable to agree on a future groundwater policy under the Water Framework Directive(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Framework_Directive
). As a result of theircross-benefit assessment the level of groundwater protection intended for the newdirective may turn out to be lower than under the existing legislation. The Directive onEnvironmental Liability is likely to suffer the same fate due to commercial interestswhich perpetually compromise the effectiveness of the current legislation. For instance,when the Commission sued Suez (one of the world's largest private water companies)for supplying drinking water above the nitrate limit of 50 mg/L to consumers over severalmonths, Suez in turn sued the French State for not protecting the groundwaterresources they took the water from, and the French High Court ruled that it isexclusively the obligation of the State to protect the waters, and that the water suppliersare merely responsible for installing adequate treatment equipment. This was a hugewin for the private companies. Water treatment is difficult and expensive, so in mostcases of pesticide contamination, water suppliers opt to abandon the polluted reservoirsand move to deeper lying aquifers or distant mountain sources, or sometimes, dilute thepolluted water with pesticide-free water.In Aarhus, Denmark, of the 25th of June of 1998, the Aarhus Convention was signedunder the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) "to contributeto the protection of the right of every person of present an future generations to live inan environment adequate to his or her health and well-being." To that avail, "each Partyshall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with theprovisions of this Convention" (Article 1). Although regional in scope, the significance ofthe Aarhus Convention is global. "It is by far the most impressive elaboration of Principle
 
#10 of the Rio Declaration, which stresses the need for citizen's participation inenvironment issues and for access to information on the environment held by publicauthorities. As such, it is the most ambitious venture in the area of 'environmentaldemocracy' for far" -Kofi Anan, Secretary General of the UN.Public access to environmental information, as it is addressed by the AarhusConvention, lays down that government and authorities shall make environmentalinformation available upon requests from the public. Hence, data on groundwater andreservoir quality, on drinking water, on the state of waste-water discharged by the wastewater treatment plants, would have to be made assessable on demand to natural andlegal persons having public responsibilities or functions, or providing public services, inrelation to the environment. Signatory States are to ensure that the public is informedtimely and adequately, and that public participation is invited while all options are stillopen, that full access to information relevant for the decision-making process is granted,that the public can submit any comments, analyses, and opinions it considers relevant,that due account is taken in the public participation, that upon decision, the public ispromptly informed and that text, reasons, and considerations concerning the decisionare made accessible to the public.The EU transposed the Aarhus Convention on the 26th of May of 2003, and adopted itinto EU law indicating an international "directive which provides for public participation inrespect of the drawing up of certain plans and programs relating to the environment"(2003/35/EC). Member states were given until the 25th of June of 2005 to incorporatethe directive into their national laws. But around 95%-80% of the global water supplyand sanitation services are provided by the public sector through local authorities whichare restricted to their own localities. With a few exceptions, the public water companiesdo not operate internationally.For various historical reasons, three French companies are dominating around two-thirds of the global private water market- Saur, Suez, and Veolia. In the late-nineteenthand mid-twentieth century, those companies which had established themselves by thetime the municipalization of water systems that took place in Europe and North Americahad a great advantage on the development of the infrastructure which took place. As aresult, they evolved to be global leaders in private water supply, and operate across anumber of different public authorities with the size and capital to take advantage of theprivatizations which began in the 1980's. Prior to 1989, there were no significantcompetitors to Suez and Veolia in any other European country. The nearest competitorsto the two French companies arose in 1989 out of a political initiative of the Thatchergovernment. The competition was, however, relatively ineffective. The water industryhas been characterized by high barriers to entry due to the capital intensive nature of itsoperations, the geographically dispersed capital structure, and costs high enough tomake duplication of infrastructure economically unviable. This makes the water industrya natural monopoly. Attempts by a US-based energy company, ENRON, to break into

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