Friday, March 20, 2009

Protect The Universal Human Right To Water

Protect The Universal Human Right To Water

Holdovers from the Bush administration have taken language to declare water a human right out of the declaration at the World Water Forum in Istanbul. It is a travesty and a nod to corporate profits to do so. Please, if you cherish water and the right of all humans to it take a moment to participate in this action to protect our water as a human right and public trust. We may not be able to be in Istanbul to let our voices be heard, but we can do it from our modems. Tell Congress that the corporate agenda regarding water must give way to a day when water is declared a human right to protect it from corporate greed, pollution, and privitization.

This Sunday March 22nd is World Water Day.

Please take this chance to do something to protect it for all.



Protect our right to water. If you don't speak out, our access to clean, safe, affordable water is at risk.

Many countries around the world already support the human right to water, which builds a framework of international law that provides for accessible, clean, drinking water for all. But thanks to holdover staff from the Bush Administration, the United States has recently and appallingly removed language that references the human right to water from the ministerial declaration of the 5th World Water Forum underway in Istanbul, Turkey.

This is a step backward for all those who have worked to establish the legal precedent in international law to affirm the human right to water. It is time to declare water a human right and a public good.

Global water statistics are heartbreaking:

* 1.4 billion people live without clean drinking water.
* Two-fifths of the world’s population lacks access to proper sanitation.
* Every eight seconds a child dies from drinking dirty water.
* Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people with an easily preventable waterborne disease.
* 80 percent of all sickness and disease worldwide is related to contaminated water, according to the World Health Organization.
* Dirty water kills more children than war, malaria, HIV/AIDS and traffic accidents combined.

Your voice is needed immediately. Write to Congress now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Riot police quell protest as World Water Forum opens

Riot police quell protest as Water Forum opens

The World Water Forum, a seven-day arena aimed at addressing the planet's deepening crisis of fresh water, was launched here Monday amid a violent protest broken up by riot police using tear gas.

The forum, held only every three years, will address growing water scarcity, the risk of conflict as countries squabble over rivers, lakes and aquifers, and how to provide clean water and sanitation to billions.

Anti-riot police dispersed some 300 demonstrators against the forum as they headed to the venue buildings, detaining at least 15. The protesters, whose rally had been called by unions, environmentalists, and leftist organisations, responded to tear gas by hurling rocks and beating officers with sticks.

They chanted slogans such as "water is people, it's life, it's not for sale," and "we want to crush this forum which wants to take our water". Heading an appeal for the globe to husband its water resources, Loic Fauchon, president of the World Water Council staging the conference, said humanity was squarely to blame for wasting the precious stuff of life.

"We are responsible," he said. "Responsible for the aggressions perpetrated against water, responsible for the current climate changes which come on top of the global changes, responsible for the tensions which reduce the availability of freshwater masses so indispensable to the survival of humanity."

He added: "At this very time in the history of water, we are faced with a major challenge to use more water resources but at the same time to protect, enhance the value of and even reuse these waters."

The world's population, currently more than 6.5 billion, is expected to rise to nine billion by mid-century, placing further massive demands on water supplies that are already under strain.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts a rise in the number of people living under severe water stress to 3.9 billion by 2030, amounting to nearly half the world's population. Most of these will live in China and South Asia.

That tally does not include the impacts of climate change. Global warming may already be affecting weather patterns, changing the time and place where rain and snow fall, say some experts. Around 2.5 billion people today do not have access to decent sanitation, defying one of the targets of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

Hydrologists say the crisis is rooted in excessive irrigation, leakage of urban water supplies, pollution of river water and unbridled extraction of water from nearly every type of source.
The need for better management of water "is becoming more urgent," the head of the OECD, Angel Gurria, warned in a report to be issued on Tuesday.

"We witness increasing pressure, competition and, in some regions, even conflict over the use of water resources. Poor governance and inadequate investment are resulting in billions of people not having access to water and sanitation services." Tens of billions of dollars are needed annually to fix the world's water systems, but policies to address the global financial crisis could help meet the target, the report says.

Gurria admitted in an interview that the world's economic crisis cast a shadow over the ability to muster such huge sums, including in development aid. But, he said, hope lies in the plans set by the United States, China, European countries and others to spend massively in infrastructure to steer their economies out of the path of recession.

This is the anger bubbling to the surface. This is the very scenario we should never ever wish for. I do not believe in violence but in peaceful protest. Beating police officers with sticks solves nothing in making the point. However, I can absolutely sympathize with the anger of the protesters in light of the global corporate grab of our water resources taking place, and vigorous attempts by predatory investors and greenwashers to commoditize our water thus taking it from a public trust to a private way to not only control water but lives.

As drought continues to spread across the world more pervasively and persistantly as waste, mismanagement, and now climate change contribute to its ever evolving scarcity we must not lose sight of what is at stake: the very existence of our civilization.

These water forums are supposed to address this, but of late as with climate change conferences we get agendas, initiatives, but little real action. Matter of fact, it is companies like Nestle, Coke, and Pepsi that actually sponsor these conferences so of course it is no surprise that people are concerned about what is really going on behind closed doors.

Most of the work to provide potable water and water equality globally is done by NGOS, not governments. And also as with the climate crisis, the global water crisis is not covered by the MSM nor are the repercussions of the current 'food crisis' coupled with economic crisis correlated to the fact that much of it could be averted with adequate water management and conservation as well as equal access not only to water but to food and addressing population growth in a humane way.

I suspect this is not the last we will see of protest regarding our water resources and I believe we may fight at least one war over water this century because human nature is such that we have been conditioned for far too long to think the well will never run dry. There is no more time for that train of thought.

We are now part of a defining century in the history of our civilization and that is not something we should take lightly. Water is life, and to preserve it for the future we must become more aware of its importance, its use, our activities regarding that use, and doing all we can to protect it from the interests that only see it as a commodity for profit. That will require a determination, passion, and global vision never seen before. And it starts with declaring water a global human right.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chilean Water Rights System Leaves Town Parched

Privitization. Not good for our environment. Not good for our economy. Not good for our future. The time has come to fight.


During the past four decades here in Quillagua, a town in the record books as the driest place on earth, residents have sometimes seen glimpses of raindrops above the foothills in the distance. They never reach the ground, evaporating like a mirage while still in the air.

What the town did have was a river, feeding an oasis in the Atacama Desert. But mining companies have polluted and bought up so much of the water, residents say, that for months each year the river is little more than a trickle — and an unusable one at that.

Quillagua is among many small towns that are being swallowed up in the country's intensifying water wars. Nowhere is the system for buying and selling water more permissive than here in Chile, experts say, where water rights are private property, not a public resource, and can be traded like commodities with little government oversight or safeguards for the environment.
Private ownership is so concentrated in some areas that a single electricity company from Spain, Endesa, has bought up 80 percent of the water rights in a huge region in the south, causing an uproar. In the north, agricultural producers are competing with mining companies to siphon off rivers and tap scarce water supplies, leaving towns like this one bone dry and withering.
"Everything, it seems, is against us," said Bartolomé Vicentelo, 79, who once grew crops and fished for shrimp in the Loa River that fed Quillagua.

Slideshow: Where the water runs dry» View

The population is about a fifth what it was less than two decades ago; so many people have left that he is one of only 120 people still here. Some economists have hailed the Chilean water rights trading system, which was established in 1981 during the military dictatorship, as a model of free-market efficiency that allocates water to its highest economic use.
But other academics and environmentalists argue that Chile's system is unsustainable because it promotes speculation, endangers the environment and allows smaller interests to be muscled out by powerful forces, like the mining industry.
"The Chilean model has gone too far in the direction of unfettered regulation," said Carl J. Bauer, an expert on Chilean water markets at the University of Arizona. "It hasn't thought through the public interest."

Australia and the Western United States have somewhat comparable systems, but they contain stronger environmental regulation and conflict resolution than Chile's, Dr. Bauer said.
Chile is a stark example of the debate over water crises across the globe. Concerns about shortages plague Chile's economic expansion through natural resources like copper, fruit and fish — all of which require loads of water in a country with limited supplies of it. "The dilemma we are facing is whether we can permit ourselves to continue to develop with the same amount of water we have now," said Rodrigo Weisner, water director in the Public Works Ministry of Chile.
"There is no political consensus about how to deal with the challenge of producing the resources we have — including the biggest reserves of copper in the world — in a country that has the most arid desert in the world," Mr. Weisner said.

Fernando Dougnac, an environmental lawyer in Santiago, the capital, said that balance was particularly difficult because the "market can regulate for more economic efficiency, but not for more social-economic efficiency."

Lately, the country's approach to water has been showing some cracks. In the Atacama Desert city of Copiapó, unbridled water trading and a two-year drought mean that "there are many more water rights for the river than water that arrives from the river," Mr. Dougnac said.
Quillagua, in Guinness World Records as the "driest place" for 37 years, had prospered off the Loa River, reaching a population of 800 by the 1940s. A long-haul train stopped there — today the station is abandoned — and the town's school was near its 120-student capacity. (Today there are 16 students.)

That prosperity first began to ebb in 1987, when the military government reduced the water to the town by more than two-thirds, said Raul Molina, a geographer at the University of Chile. But the big blows came in 1997 and 2000, when two episodes of contamination ruined the river for crop irrigation or livestock during the critical summer months.

An initial study by a professor concluded that the 1997 contamination had probably come from a copper mine run by Codelco, the state mining giant. The Chilean government then hired German experts, who said the contamination had a natural origin.

The regional Agriculture and Livestock Service of Chile, part of the Ministry of Agriculture, rebutted those findings in 2000, saying in a report that people, not nature, were responsible. Heavy metals and other substances associated with mineral processing were found that killed off the river's shrimp and made the water undrinkable for livestock. (Drinking water for residents had been transported in for decades.)

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