The Alternative Water Forum #FAME2022 starts today

Every 3 years the World Water Council organises the World Water Forum. The name of the forum is not fair, as it is a forum for private water companies. The World Water Council is a private lobby formed by the main water multinational companies, such as Agbar, Suez and Veolia, which promote the privatisation and deregulation of public water and sanitation services in the world.

This is the reason why the organisations and people who fight to make access to water a human right and a common good, organise a counter-summit called the Alternative World Water Forum (AWWF) for each World Water Forum. We work within a common framework that understands water as a human right and a non-marketable public good. And we understand that a World Forum to discuss the main issues and problems of water cannot be co-opted by private interests or ignore the participation of citizens and, above all, the communities most affected by the lack of access to the right to water.

After the first Water Forum in 1997 in Morocco, the World Forum returns to the African continent, this time in the capital of Senegal, Dakar. When the official forum was announced, local and regional organisations quickly mobilised to organise the alternative forum (FAME). The aim of this #FAME2022 is to unite efforts from around the world to guarantee the right to water and protect water resources, especially for those populations suffering from poverty and social exclusion. The #FAME2022 will address the challenges of secure and affordable access to water, as well as climate change and democratic water governance.

The #FAME2022 programme

FAME 2022 will be held from March 21st to 25th. It will start with a big popular demonstration to show our rejection of the policies of privatisation and spolio of water that the city and the Senegalese country are suffering. On March 22nd, #WorldWaterDay, there will be a grand opening and international press conference, with the support of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation and the Mayor of Dakar. From March 22nd to 25th, there will be several plenary sessions, workshops and cultural and artistic events. Of particular note are the strategic meetings for the creation of an African water justice network. The full programme of the forum can be found here.

Given the circumstances of the pandemic, FAME 2022 in Dakar will have a hybrid format to allow virtual participation. Do not miss the opportunity to follow the forum virtually. Register at this link.

The path to #FAME2022

Engineering Without Borders (ESF) and the European Water Movement (EWM) have a long tradition of international links, which is why we participate in the organisation of the alternative forums since 2006.

Our involvement in the FAME International Steering Committee started in 2020, when, despite the pandemic that was soon going to lock down, we travelled to Dakar and met several organisations to start the path towards the Alternative Forum. It was a meeting with many stories from different parts of Africa, and with the voices of powerful women eager to be heard.

The choice of Dakar by the World Water Council is not by chance. It is only two years since the Senegalese government granted the management of drinking water in the main Senegalese cities to the multinational Suez. And the African continent, with a great lack of access to water and sanitation, is seen by international corporations as an important market to exploit.

Since 2019 ESF has participated in all the meetings of the international steering committee. In October 2021 we hosted an EWM meeting in Barcelona, where we discussed the european participation in FAME and hosted an event to raise awareness of the African water reality here in Catalonia. Today the Forum starts, we are very satisfied with the work carried out and the solidarity links created with the African continent.

Public water without (public) financial mediation? Remunicipalizing water in Valladolid, Spain

Research Article
Jorge Garcia-Arias, Hug March, Nuria Alonso & Mar Satorras (2022)

Abstract

We discuss the water remunicipalization process in the city of Valladolid (Spain), focusing specifically on its public financing model. Valladolid water remunicipalization has been a politically driven process, but implemented and managed in a technical way, through a public 100% municipality-owned company. As we show, it does not require the additional participation of financial intermediaries, public or private. The Valladolid remunicipalization process has been largely successful, with efficient financial and technical management, including some equity and environmental considerations, although it is not free from financial challenges that could cause it to totter in the future. 

Introduction

After decades of academic discussions on the benefits and negative dimensions of water privatization across the globe (e.g., Bakker, 2005, 2007; Budds & McGranahan, 2003; Swyngedouw, 2005), there is broad consensus around the idea that public water utilities can be just as efficient as their private counterparts, and in some cases more so (Bel et al., 2010). The lack of satisfaction by local governments with private water providers have pushed many municipal authorities to seek alternative modes of provision (Bel et al., 2018), either returning to public services (remunicipalization) or creating new public services (municipalization).1 However, while (re)municipalization has gained momentum and has been portrayed by some political movements, activists and academics as a transformative change that could embrace radical visions of society around autonomism and anticapitalism, empirical research has also shown that many (re)municipalization processes can be labelled social-democratic (McDonald, 2018) or even part of a ‘pragmatic market management process’ (Clifton et al., 2021, p. 293). As such, much of the recent literature on water remunicipalization focuses on whether the processes have been fundamentally driven by ideological and political reasons, or technical or economic causes (Hanna & McDonald, 2021). 

Regardless of their motivations, remunicipalization processes need to be accompanied by solid transition plans, of which public financing and public banks can play an important role. In this sense, the classic discussion about the role, functions and effectiveness of public banking – which Marois (2022) labels as orthodox/political versus heterodox/developmental views – has been revived in recent years. In the view of many public bank advocates, public banking could play an important role by complementing the financing that private banks cannot or do not want to cover, especially in areas related to infrastructure, as well as helping to achieve certain socio-economic objectives by playing a countercyclical role, helping to stabilize the economy and reducing the intensity of crises.

Read the full article on the website of Water International, official journal of the International Water Resources Association.

The Canals Are Clear Thanks to the Coronavirus, But Venice’s Existential Threat Is Climate Change

Flooding in November has left experts wondering whether the massive retractable gates the city is constructing will ever keep all of the water out.

Living these days inside their homes to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Venetians have discovered a silver lining in an empty city suddenly free of polluting tourist boats. The water in the legendary canals is clear, unlike anything they've seen in decades.

Lidia Feruoch, president of the Venice branch of Italy's largest environmental group, Italia Nostra, rejoiced at watching "cormorants dive into the canals to catch fish because the water in the lagoon has become transparent again," she said in a recent interview. She hopes the end of the pandemic will free Venice from a "tourism monoculture" that brings 27 million visitors a year to this city of 50,000.

Still, Feruoch and Don Roberto Donadoni, parish priest of the Basilica of San Marco, remain mindful of the city's other existential threat, climate change, a preview of which they saw in the dark and churning waters of November, when extreme flooding from heavy rains and high tides swamped Venice and reached a level a few scant centimeters below that of the legendary 1966 flood.

Read more...

Floods in Belgium and Germany: this is not a natural disaster

Translation in English of his article by Daniel Tanuro

Brussels, 17 July 2021

At the time of writing (17 July), the terrible floods in Belgium, parts of Germany and the Netherlands have killed more than 100 people.Tens of thousands of people have been displaced, have lost everything and will remain traumatised forever. Others were not even that “lucky”, unfortunately, and the large number of missing persons (1300 in Germany) leaves no doubt that the final toll will be much, much higher. The material damage is immense, not to mention the impact in terms of water and soil pollution (by hydrocarbons, heavy metals, PCBs, plastics, sewage, etc.).

Read more...

Water Must Not be Used as a Weapon of War: Refrain from Civilian and Environmental Harm in Northeast Syria!

Statement by Save the Tigris Campaign, 12 October 2019

On 9 October, Turkey started a military offensive in northeast Syria. A move which will have disastrous consequences for the region. This armed conflict will have a direct impact on populations, ecosystem and post-conflict recovery of the area. Concerns mount of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Water is at risk of being used as a weapon in this conflict: The first reports have appeared of the targeting of water infrastructure: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported on 10 October that Bouzra Dam, providing water to the city of Derik, was targeted by Turkish warplanes. Other reports confirmed damages to civilian installations: water supplies to Hasakeh city have been interrupted due to damage of Alok water station, which serves 400,000 people in the area, according to OCHA. The politicization of water in northeast Syria has been ongoing since the start of the Syrian conflict. This was evidenced in the past years by the deliberate disruption of water flows from transboundary rivers originating in Turkey. In past summers water flows to Syria were cut on various occasions, while the opening of Turkish dams caused the flooding of agricultural lands in Girê Spî and other areas as recently as last month. In addition, the GAP project in Southeastern Turkey, which includes Ilisu Dam and other dams to be-constructed on the Tigris River, would curb water flows into Syria and Iraq by as much as half.

The targeting of rivers and destruction of water installations, whether dams, desalinisation plants, sewage or other infrastructure, can cause a humanitarian crisis in health and sanitation across the region. Due to years of conflict, much of the water infrastructure in Syria has been lost or not maintained. If dams are targeted there is a major risk of flooding, as was demonstrated in 2017: Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River was part of a major assault between the SDF and Daesh, which damaged its power station. There was a serious possibility of dam failure, which lead to emigration of populations from the area at risk.

Read more in the website of the Save the Tigris campaign