September 2016        

Thirsting for justice

Eoghan M. Ó Néill

Time is running out. The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada has been agreed; it only awaits its ratification by EU member-states to become law. Once that happens, the privatisation of our water is almost inevitable.
     CETA brings with it all the draconian conditions of TTIP and will open the floodgates to the privatisation of public services, including water.
     The Government could have acted to protect public services from the ravages of CETA but chose instead to cower to the demands of transnational corporations and to open all our services to privatisation.
     During the negotiations on CETA, EU states had the opportunity to list services they wished to protect from privatisation. The Irish Government failed to act in the interests of its people by purposely refusing to list such services as water, education, and the health service.
     To compound their treachery, it is the intention of the Government to ratify CETA without consulting the people. In Dáil Éireann on 26 November 2015, Richard Bruton stated that the ratification of CETA “in Ireland’s case will mean a decision of the houses of the Oireachtas.” Furthermore, it is the intention of this Government to ratify CETA before the end of the year. In other words, the people will be denied a choice in the matter.
     If they get away with this there will not be a referendum on Irish Water, no referendum on CETA or TTIP, and our water, along with many of our public services, will be opened to the rapacious profit-mongers of global monopoly capitalism.
     The vultures are already circling. Nestlé now controls more than 54 per cent of water in the United States and Canada. It is also making inroads in Europe (26 per cent), Africa and Asia (16 per cent), and Latin America (5 per cent). Britain, France, Spain and many more EU states are being opened up by Nestlé and other transnational corporations.
     Nestlé is sucking water out of drought-stricken areas of North America, such as California and Ontario, and selling it back to thirsty consumers at massive profits. It was a CEO of Nestlé who infamously declared that “access to water should not be a public right.”
Global sales from privatised water
Water companiesWater salesWorldwide consumers
Ondeo€10,088 million115 million
Veolia (formerly Vivendi)€13,640 million110 million
Thames€2,746 million37 million
SAUR€2,494 million36 million
Anglian€936 million5 million
Cascal€181 million6.7 million
IWL€100 million10 million
Suez€42,359 million115 million
Nestlé€625 million
                                Source: Guardian (London) special supplement, August 2003.
                                For Suez: www.psiru.org/reports/2002-08-W-MNCs.doc

The international struggle for water

The Irish people are not alone in their struggle to secure water as a human right. The fight to protect water is a global fight and is being fought globally. Throughout the world, working-class people are leading the struggle against the privatisation of water and, where it has already been privatised, to restore it to public ownership.
     In Latin America, Africa, Asia and even in parts of Europe the struggle to protect water as a right, or to reverse its privatisation, continues.
CountryHas ended privatisationFighting against privatisation Privatisation cancelled
before it had begun
Belizenationally
Trinidad and Tobagonationally
Colombia Cartagena
Guyana nationally
BoliviaCochabamba, La Paz, and El Alto
BrazilParaná
Chile nationally
Uruguaynationally
ArgentinaBuenos Aires, TucumánSanta Fé
Gambianationally
GuineaConakry
Cameroon nationally
Kenya nationally
TanzaniaDar es Salaam
Mozambique five cities
Zimbabwe Harare, Gweru
South AfricaNkokobdeDolphin Coast, Nelspruit
MalaysiaKelantan
Bangladesh Dhaka
PhilippinesManila West ZoneManila East Zone
Indonesia Jakarta
Albania four cities
Bulgaria Sofia
Armenia Yerevan
     While the Troika insisted on the privatisation of Irish water, cities in Germany and France, such as Berlin, Hamburg, and Paris, have been reversing privatisation and bringing water back into public ownership.
     Why? Because privatisation proved to be too costly and ineffective.
     But despite the evidence against the privatisation of water, our government still seeks to prepare the ground for privatisation—to support private profit over the needs of its own people.
     We must demand a referendum to place water under constitutional protection. We need a referendum to stop CETA and TTIP, which will pave the way for privatisation. And we must stand in solidarity with our comrades around the globe who seek to protect their water.

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