Friday, November 2, 2012

Commodification of Water, the Quintessential Issue of Our Time

Commoditization of the commons is the most important issue of our time, the most vital aspect of which is the commodification of water, usable water (pdf) to be more precise. As Global Water Corporation, a Canadian water privatization company has stated (pdf):

“Water has moved from being an endless commodity that may be taken for granted to a rationed necessity that may be taken by force.”

Strong words indeed for an important issue. Gavin Power, the deputy director of the United Nations Global Compact, reiterated this message when he made the following statement after receiving support from some of the largest corporations in the world in an effort “to help [sic] solve the global water crisis”:

“The scale of the water problem is so big that governments can’t solve it alone. They need the help of the private sector.”

Privatization of water, however, has some serious adversaries. Veronica Lake, a Michigan-based environmental activist, in a 2004 article cautions that corporations are using the following three tactics to take control of the world's water:

1. “Through ‘water mining’ of the aquifers and vast sources of water that feed streams, and rivers;

2. “Through long-term leases or concessions allowing corporations to take over the delivery of water systems and the collection of revenues;

3. “Through ‘managing’ municipal water systems.”

This, of course, is exactly what has been happening over the last few decades, intensifying in the last few years. From Coca-Cola’s water use in India to Nestlé’s in the United States, from the Alberta tar-sands to fracking projects across the US, there is a mad rush by private organizations to secure water rights and, unfortunately, certain governments have been facilitating this takeover of our commons.

RMR: Rick's Rant - Experimental Lakes Area Cuts

All is not doom and gloom however. “On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights” (more info at the Council of Canadians and the People's Summit).

By a vote of 122 in favour to none against with 41 abstentions, the resolution adopted by the General Assembly:

1. “Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights;

2. “Calls upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all;

3. “Welcomes the decision by the Human Rights Council to request that the independent expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation submit an annual report to the General Assembly, and encourages her to continue working on all aspects of her mandate and, in consultation with all relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, to include in her report to the Assembly, at its sixty-sixth session, the principal challenges related to the realization of the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation and their impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”

Additional information on what we are facing is provided below by an excellent lecture by Maude Barlow and two documentaries that are well worth the watch; “A World Without Water” and “Blue Gold: World Water Wars”.

The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water | Maude Barlow

Further reading on some of the information mentioned in the video: 1) Proposal Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, 2) OUR RIGHT TO WATER: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation (pdf), 3) Botswana Bushmen win right to water and Victory for Kalahari Bushmen as court grants right to water.

A World Without Water

Blue Gold: World Water Wars