Posted Jan. 03, 2005
The Water Wars
By Mumia Abu-Jamal from Death Row
The recent visions of the tsunami rushing, raging, tearing through the Asian coasts has given us all some interesting insights into the truly stunning, and indeed awesome power of water, and how nature's fury is virtually boundless when unleashed.
Yet there is another watery war that is being waged, that may affect the lives of millions, but it garners neither the concern, nor really the attention of the world's media. The electronic media, especially, thrives on drama and conflict, and seeks pictures and stories which reflect these features.
It also affirms the positions of the privileged, as opposed to the plight of the poor, and powerless. Yet all across the globe, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America--and even here--in North America-- people are living under the very real threat of the corporatization of water and water systems. The waters of the earth, which have been, since the dawn of human civilization, for the collective usage of the community, are fast becoming just another commodity--something to sell. If you can afford it, cool. If not, tough.
Michael Stark, a senior executive at US Filter, a subsidiary of the multinational corporation, Vivendi, put it this way: "Water is a critical and necessary ingredient to the daily life of every human being, and it is also an equally powerful ingredient for powerful manufacturing companies." (Lake)
Veronica Lake, a Michigan-based environmental activist, has noted that corporations acquire the world's water by three major methods: a.) by "water mining" the underground aquifers, or deep sources of many of the world's streams or rivers; b.) by leasing state and government water systems and collecting revenues; and c.) by "managing" city water systems.
In short, there's money in water, and where money is, there too are corporations, trying to get paid.
That's the dark, unforeseen and treacherous side of the globalization movement among western governments and corporations.
That's also what privatization really means--taking the common inheritance of nature, and making it into someone else's private property.
In South Africa, this movement has resulted in more misery for the poor. Indeed, cholera rates are higher now there, than in the days of apartheid. It's often the result of tough austerity measures imposed by the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, where governments are privatizing essential services, and the costs of living now means the right to buy water, to live.
Nor is this merely a story for the distant Third World.
In Detroit, Michigan, today, some 40,000 people on the southwest side have had their water shut off for non-payment. In many older buildings, water isn't just the stuff that's supposed to run through faucets; it also provides steam heat through old radiators. So no water means, no heat. In Detroit.
Scholars say that the next world wars will be fought, not for oil, but for water, for it is infinitely more precious.
Thankfully, people, all over the world, in South Africa, in Plachimada, India, in Bolivia, in Brazil, in France, Ghana, and Canada, are fighting both their sell-out governments and the corporations for the human right of free access to water.
Those of you who have read my earlier pieces may remember my piece on the Bolivian water wars in a place called Cochabamba.
There, a popular group calling itself La Coordinadora de Defensa del Agua y la Vida (Defense Committee in Defense of Water and Life), organized the poor, the homeless, the street walkers, and everyone they could to oppose the corporatization of their water. They ran out the Bechtel corporation. It must spread.
Or else water will become as rare as gold; and as expensive.
Source: Veronica Lake, 'Corporations Corner Market on Life, Offer Buy-Back: The New World War: Water,' "Against the Current," 108,. Jan.-Feb. 2004, 26-31.
This column may be reprinted and/or distributed by electronic means, but only for non-commercial use, and only with the inclusion of the following copyright information: Text (c) copyright 2005 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
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Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of thre following books:
WE WANT FREEDOM: 'A Life in the Black Panther Party',
'Live from Death Row',
'Death Blossoms', and
'All Things Censored'.
Write to Mumia directly at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370