Reclaiming Public Water has been one of TNI's most successful publications, obviously meeting a need in many countries and many languages. The latest in the series, which includes Spanish, Bahasa Indonesian, Italian with more to come, is Chinese, in a translation undertaken by our friend in Hong Kong, Au Ly. This is my preface, which he has now also translated. The book will be mostly distributed in Hong Kong [where people are fighting against privatisation of the public water system] and Taiwan, but Au has hopes that through the internet, people in mainland China will also be able to access it.
In May 2000, a Fortune Magazine piece claimed triumphantly that the “liquid everybody needs – and will need a lot more of in the future – is going private,” and as a result would benefit “multitudes of poor people.”
A return to public forms of administration in water supplies is a phenomenon that has been spreading globally. Over the past 15 years almost 235 cities around the world, among them Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Buenos Aires and Kuala Lumpur have either terminated or have desisted from renewing the contracts with private concessionary companies. In the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and the Scandinavian countries, for example, water delivery is, by a tradition, almost 100 percent public.
The largest Public-Private Partnership in water sector in Germany ended in 2013 after the longstanding social mobilisation. Remunicipalisation cost a high price for the city of Berlin though. Berliners have striven for new challenges.
Spain maybe on the edge of a remunicipalisation renaissance, with all the relevant legal, financial and technical issues attracting surprisingly intense interest throughout the state. These trends in Spain provide inspiring examples for other countries too, in Europe and worldwide. On 1st December Barcelona City Council organised a remarkable conference on the topic.
The Central Jakarta District Court on 24 March annulled the water privatisation contracts of Suez (PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya – Palyja) and Aetra, finding that the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) were negligent in fulfilling the human right to water for Jakarta’s residents.
At UN meetings in Addis Ababa, private finance has been touted as key to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals, but campaigners argue that public finance is more reliable and more likely to secure the human right to water for all.
The first CITIES FOR PUBLIC WATER MEETING took place on 3rd and 4th November, 2016 in Madrid, convened by La Red Agua Pública/the Public Water network in collaboration with the Municipal Council of Madrid. The event can be considered a milestone in the public water movement as it has strengthened the alliance of different actors involved in the defence of the public management of water, from a perspective of common good and human rights and will permit a closer collaboration with municipal councils and other public institutions (universities, professional colleges, cultural entities, etc.) in the future.
In the last 15 years there have been at least 180 cases of water remunicipalisation in 35 countries, both in the global North and South, including high profile cases in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.
Despite large aid support, Ghana's privatised water utility AVRL consistently failed to meet its contractual commitments. Water is now back in state hands, but it will need increased investment and a vigilant civil society to deliver the services Ghanaians need.
The Greek government and its creditors seem bent on imposing policy whose economic merits and democratic legitimacy seem rather dubious. A French company is especially active among the candidates for privatizing water in Athens and Thessaloniki: Suez Environnement.
The 2008 Constitution of Ecuador enshrines the rights of nature and the human right to water. Juan Carlos Romero, former official at the water public utility EPMAPS, argues that guaranteeing the human right to water is not only about providing a service, but also requires mainstreaming environmental, social, financial and political sustainability into the company's activities.
Buenaventura Dargantes, Mary Ann B. Manahan, Daniel Moss, V. Suresh
17 July 2012
This project was undertaken with support from the Visayas State University, Focus on the Global South, Our Water Commons, the Centre for Law and Democracy, France Liberte, and Reclaiming Public Water Network.
The motivation behind this collection of case studies is to examine successful and/or illuminating cases of water commons governance and management, culling out insights that may be useful in communities around the world.
The President of Paris' remunicipalised water utility tells the inspiring story of how water was taken back into public hands, and why this has prompted a major expansion in reinvestment, public participation, and international solidarity cooperation.