Water is a human right to all mankind. However, over 1.1 billion people in the poor nations lack access to safe and clean water. A shortage of water results in the perpetuation of diseases, an escalation of poverty, and even early deaths.
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Among the poor countries, the public sector is charged with the responsibility of managing ninety-seven percent of all the water (Segerfeldt para. 1) and as such, the sector is largely responsible for failing to provide the more than one billion individuals with clean and safe water. Privatization of water leads to better incentives and superior competencies. Attempts to privatize the waters of the world have however elicited strong resistance, not to mention stirring strong emotions and feelings among those affected.
Privatization ends up treating water as a commodity, and not a human right and so in the long-run, the poor have no access to it. On paper, water is regarded as a basic human right but still, one has to pay for it. To gain a further insight into the issue of privatization of the world’s waters, the paper shall examine three articles.
First, Joshua Ortega’s article, “water wars: bottling up the world’s supply of water” shall be explored. The article, “private water saves lives” by Fredrik Segerfeldt shall also be assessed and finally, Jeff Fleischer’s article, “Blue Gold: An interview with Maude Barlow” will also be examined.
As Segerfeldt (para. 1) notes, over 1 billion people globally, a majority of them from the poor nations, lacks access to safe and clean water. This is despite that fact that only about 8 per cent of all the water available globally is sued for purposes of human consumptions.
This is an indication that the inability of the more than 1 billion individuals globally to access clean and safe water is not as a result of water shortage, but is due to bad policies. For example Segerfeldt (para. 1) observes that Cherrapunji, India often regarded as the world’ wettest place, also suffers from periodic water shortages.
The public sector manages about ninety-seven percent of the entire water distribution channels in the poor countries and as such, it could be held responsible for the lack of access to clean and safe water by the more than 1 billion individuals in these countries. Those poor nations that have decided to privatize the water sector have witnessed an increasingly higher number of the citizens accessing water, in comparison with the other nations in which water is still managed by the public sector.
Privatization the water sector results in an improved scope of distribution and quality of water. This has culminated in violent demonstrations and protests globally. International trade agreements have also played a pivotal role in the commercialization and privatization of the world’s water.
For example, the definition of a good, as provided for by GATT, also included water. Initially, NAFTA sought to include water as a good and then later on, changed it into an investment. This therefore gave the members countries the impetus to privatize it.
The issue of scarcity has also played a significant role in helping to facilitate the privatization of water (Fleischer para. 3). This has effectively resulted in a mushrooming of companies that are involved in the bottling and sale of water. For example, nowadays, we have come to accept bottled water as part of our lives and for this reason you will find it on planes and in restaurants. Therefore, because access to safe and clean water has become hard, people have now turned to drinking bottled water.
A lot of people hold the perception that compared with tap water, bottled water tends to be more pure and healthy. However, as Ortega has noted, this is nothing more than a marketing illusions (para. 1). As he has further reported, a 1999 study by NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) revealed that one out of every five samples of bottled water that the four-year study had sampled contained such carcinogens and neurotoxins as toluene, xylene, and styrene.
Tap water is regulated more stringently in comparison with bottled water, in spite of popular misconceptions. As a matter of fact, bottled water may contain certain levels or fecal coliform of Escherichia coli under regulations, unlike tap water. Furthermore, it is not mandatory to disinfect bottled water for Guardia or cryptosporidium.
One wonders then how contaminated tap water finds its way into the U. S. market. It is important to note that the bottled water industry enjoys very relaxed regulations, not to mention that the standards for bottled water are less-stringent in comparison with those of tap water. As a public resource, it is important to ensure that the consumer has access to extensive documentation in the content and quality of tap water (Ortega para. 5).
On the other hand, because bottled water is treated as a soft drink, as opposed to a public resource, this could help explain the less-stringent regulations. If the global public water resources are to be commercialized through a privatization process, would we be faced with a relaxation of the hitherto stringent regulations that characterizes public water? If this were to happen, then we can no longer be guaranteed of clean and safe water and this culminate in a rising epidemic of water borne disease and deaths.
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It is not just the poor third world countries who are confronted with the issue of access to clean and safe water. Even the industrialized countries in Europe, Canada and the U. S have a limited control over their own water resources, much less than they can imagine. To start with, the high rates of pollution has resulted in mining of ground water at a faster rate that they can actually be replenished (Fleischer para. 8).
This is an indication that we could in fact be faced with a water crisis in the years ahead. Faced with this grave reality, the governments in the developed nations have begun questioning about who needs to pay for the water, and who needs to access it. This has only acted to enhance the commoditization and water through privatization.
Most of the water supply systems in the poor nations are under the management of the public sector and due to poor mismanagement individuals in these countries are faced with the problem of accessing clean and safe water. On the other hand, in those countries whereby the water sector has been privatized, there has been an improvement in terms of quality and service delivery of the water. However, it is important to note that the privatization of water has turned it into a good first, and then a service.
As a result, the stringent rules and regulations that characterize the treatment of tap water often meant for public consumption, faces being jeopardized, as can be evidence by the mushrooming of bottled water companies. Scarcity of clean and safe water is also a problem in the developed nations due to pollution as a result of such human activities as mining. Threes need to find a balance between access to clean and safe water, and a determination of whether to privatize or publicize the world supply of water.
Fleischer, Jeff. Blue Gold: An Interview with Maude. January 2005. 19 January, 2011. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/
Ortega, Joshua. Water wars: Bottling up the world’s supply of H2O. March 2005. 19 January, 2011. http://old.seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2002213327_sundaywater20.html
Segerfeldt, Fredrik. Private Water Saves Lives. August 2005. 19 January, 2011. https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/private-water-saves-lives