Coastal Development Partnership

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Voices Against Water Corporatization

On December 4, 2013, Bali, Indonesia - Civil society organizations, youth, peasants, unions and other grassroots organizations around the world joined forces in the recently held People’s Global Camp (PGC) from December 3-6, 2013 to demand a total junk of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in parallel with its ongoing 9th Ministerial Meeting.

Organized by the Indonesian People’s Alliance (IPA), the PGC aims to consolidate people’s collective response against the WTO by providing a space to various grassroots organizations to exchange experiences, learn and plan actions that are seen significant to promote national sovereignty and insist alternatives to the current trade regime. Water for the People Network (WPN), one of the organizations which conducted their self-organized activities, gave emphasis on water resources’ privatization leading to treatment of water as a commodity being traded in the market.

Speakers from Bangladesh, the Philippines and Pakistan were able to show how water resources’ privatization affects families and communities in their countries. Wali Haider of Roots for Equity emphasized the kinds of water problems prevalent in Pakistan. These include the water used for agricultural purposes, inaccessibility to safe drinking water, and the construction of dams and commodification of water. He also elaborated on the construction of dams and the displacement of the fishing communities around it and concluded with a strong call on resisting water corporatization and the plunder of natural resources.

The importance of water in agriculture was further reiterated by April Porteria. Coordinator of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS)-Asia, as she stressed the important part water plays in agricultural production. No crops will be grown without water. The continuous acquisition of lands by agricultural corporations is twined with the acquisition and corporatization of water resources as well.

While most of the discussions were about the cases of people’s struggles on water in Asian countries, Md Atiqur Tipu of Coastal Development Partnership (CDP) presented the successful stories of a community in Dhaka where water system is managed by a cooperative’s union. He said, “In all aspects, access, billing and distribution, system is sustainable with the water system managed by the cooperative’s union”. Water services are good under the public control. There is no need to engage in any water public-private partnership.

The participants also shared the stories of a community in Southeastern Lomboc, Indonesia wherein the local system of water management is collective. Water rates are low and people have equitable access to it. They also told of a village in Phu Tho province, Northern Vietnam where small-scale food producers, who are mostly women, are actively managing the irrigation system.

At the end of the discussion, the participants agreed that water is needed to provide life and development. They emphasized that any forms of privatization will continuously result to peoples’ inequitable access to water primarily through charging towering water rates, displacement of families and communities living around water resources and undermining of people’s food sovereignty. The participants also added that losing water is tantamount to losing people’s lives and and as these struggles continue to arise the movements, youths, women and other grassroots organizations will continuously demand for democratic control on water management.

The WPN forum ended by affirming that (1) water should be recognized as a human right and the failure to realize and fulfill it is a crime and a violation to human right, (2) right to water should be included in all the local, national and international plans of actions which would mean that the governments should provide subsidy to water service and (3) ownership and management of natural resources, especially water, should be collective and public. As proven successful by a community controlled water systems in Southeastern Lomboc, Indonesia, a cooperative’s union water management in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in a women led community irrigation system in Phu Tho province of Northern Vietnam and the other unsung success stories of a publicly owned and controlled water resource management, it was reiterated that the collective action of people around the world will advance the battle against corporate ownership of water.

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