22 Mar 2006
The UN published its second world water development report in Mexico City today. It states that several multinational water companies are reducing their activities in poor countries. In the 1990s the World Bank and G8 countries saw privatisation schemes as the solution to the cycle of drought and death caused by a lack of clean water, but the difficulties encountered by companies have resulted in many voluntarily leaving or even being forced out of countries.
The report says that Thames Water is leaving Shanghai, Saur is leaving Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and Suez is downsizing in Latin America and Africa. After these unsuccessful ventures, they will focus on the safer North European and American markets. These actions have sparked demonstrations in Bolivia, Malaysia, South Africa and Indonesia. The report also states that the project failed to help the poorer sections of countries, privileging wealthier urban areas.
Development groups reiterate what the report says and stress the importance of collaboration between local governments and authorities, while encouraging small local water companies in their development. Water giants are also rethinking their strategies in an effort to solve this major water crisis.
In an interview with The Guardian, Jean-Louis Chaussade, chief executive of Suez Environment, said, ‘We are not a political organization, but how can we do our job if the political system in countries changes its mind so often? Private funding runs into ideological problems. We need to be more humble. We have to adapt to local realities’.
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