A high priority: affordable, clean – and public – water for all

water point hyderabadMen fill drinking water from a leaking water supply point into containers on World Water Day, March 22, in Hyderabad, India. Mahesh Kumar A. / AP

Earlier this month, Anna Lappé reported in Al Jazeera online that before its annual spring meeting the World Bank Group held four days of dialogue between civil society groups from around the world and its staff in Washington.

Water was high on the list of topics. Anna continued, “We face a global water crisis, made worse by the warming temperatures of climate change.

  • A quarter of the world’s people don’t have sufficient access to clean drinking water,
  • more people die every year from waterborne illnesses – such as cholera and typhoid fever – than from all forms of violence, including war, combined.
  • Every hour, the United Nations estimates, 240 babies die from unsafe water.

“The World Bank Group pushes privatization as a key solution to the water crisis. It is the largest funder of water management in the developing world, with loans and financing channeled through the group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).

“Even as the World Bank Group continues to promote water privatization, its own data reveal that a high percentage of its private water projects are in distress. Its project database for private participation in infrastructure documents a 34 percent failure rate for all private water and sewerage contracts entered into between 2000 and 2010, compared with a failure rate of just 6% for energy, 3% for telecommunications and 7 % for transportation, during the same period”.

Summary:

An IFC-funded private water project in central India’s largest city, Nagpur, for example, is the country’s first “full city” public-private partnership and has raised serious concerns among local residents. Worries range from high prices to project delays to unequal water distribution and service shutdowns. Allegations of corruption and illegal activity have led residents to protest, and city officials have called for investigations of contract violations.

Skyrocketing water prices, unsafe supply, failing infrastructure – these problems fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable. This is why public institutions, not private corporations, must lead the development of water systems and delivery. The World Bank Group is uniquely positioned to increase access to clean water for the billions who need it. Instead of using its position to line the pockets of water companies, it should support what is most needed: affordable, clean – and public – water for all.

Read the full article here: http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/4/water-managementprivatizationworldbankgroupifc.html

Anna Lappé is the author of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It and the co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and Real Food Media Project.


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