Perhaps in the thousand ages of divine-like patience, even this rock of mindlessness will be dented by the regular dripping of roof water. - Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah.
Some principles of water justice
- Water is essential for the entire biosphere, not just humans.
- Water is nature's gift and cannot be owned and turned into a commodity.
- Water is exhaustible. It is our duty to conserve and use it sustainably. No-one has a right to pollute it.
- Water is a human right. We need to work to guarantee a free basic provision of safe water for all.
- Efficient water management starts from the point of view of the most disadvantaged - impoverished women in particular, who often bear the burden of fetching water.
- Democratic local community participation can ensure sustainable use and equitable distribution.
Happening this month
- 22 March is World Water Day; 2003 is the International Year of Freshwater.
- The second UN Clean Water Decade begins this month. The previous one (in the 1980s) failed due to the purse-pinching of donor countries and the anti-poor economic agenda pushed by Reagan and Thatcher.
- 16-23 March, the Third World Water Forum takes place in Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, Japan. The previous Forum (held in The Hague, March 2000), dominated by corporate lobby groups, gained notoriety for pushing the privatization agenda under a cloud of development rhetoric.
Useful non-governmental organizations
The Water Matters Campaign co-ordinated by TEAR Australia lobbies for safe water provision worldwide.
PO Box 164 (1/4 Solwood Lane), Blackburn VIC 3130.
Tel: (03) 9877 7444 or Toll Free: 1800 244 986
Fax: (03) 9877 7944
Oz GREEN involves communities to care for rivers
Prince Consort House, 27 - 29 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7UB.
Tel: 020 7793 4500 Fax: 020 7793 4545
Look out also for WaterAid and Tearfund's forthcoming report on sanitation, 'The Human Waste'.
Oxfam works on a wide variety of projects but has a track record of securing safe water for communities in distress.
Various UN agencies provide invaluable information on the state of water resources and promote safe water and sanitation initiatives. However, be wary of the 'public private partnerships' lurking within. In November 2002, UNESCO announced the signing of a co-operation agreement with the transnational water giant Suez. Recent declarations from Suez put the emphasis on public service not the profit potential - just who are they trying to fool?
Home of the World Water Assessment Programme, pooling the resources of 23 UN agencies. See below to access the Programme's comprehensive World Water Development Report presented at Kyoto in March 2003.
US civil-rights group Public Citizen.
Visit the Blue Planet Project on the Council of Canadians' site, which aims to co-ordinate international anti-privatization efforts - with extensive links.
Two recent books worth reading: the impressively researched Blue Gold: The battle against corporate theft of the world's water by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke (Earthscan 2002) and the more polemical Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit by Vandana Shiva (Pluto Press 2002).
The Australian Conservation Foundation presses for better local water management.
www.greatlakesdirectory.org Useful US site that covers a multiplicity of issues.
www.idrc.ca/waterdemand/ Canadian Government-funded initiative to look at ways of reducing water demand in regions of scarcity.
www.rain-water.org The Japanese group People for Rainwater Utilization with outreach in Bangladesh.
www.rainwaterharvesting.org/ A multitude of stories and strategies from India.
www.waternz.co.nz Industry initiative concentrating on water quality in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Some useful general sites
www.waterobservatory.org Overview of current debates by the US Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
www.thewaterpage.comWith an emphasis on sustainable development.
www.worldwater.org Data culled from Peter Gleick's authoritative biannual reports on the world's freshwater.
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