Thursday, September 08, 2005

Date:23/01/2004 URL:
National `Water privatisation to be a key issue in elections'
By Our Staff Reporter
PALAKKAD, JAN. 22. The issue of privatisation of water envisaged in the National Water Policy will be one of the key issues in the coming general elections to the Lok Sabha, according to Vandana Shiva, environmental scientist.
Inaugurating a seminar on the second day of the World Water Conference at Plachimada, near here, on Thursday, Dr. Shiva said that by privatising water the Government was allowing the multinational corporations to "steal" the water of the common man.
"No government has the right to sell water since it is in the public trust that belongs to the people. The Government is only the custodian of this public trust. But the Central and State Governments are engaged in privatisation of water, affecting even the drinking water requirement of the people," she said.
The Centre was also inviting the multinational farm corporations to take land on lease for cultivation. This would also lead to the regulation of the water allowing them to take control of water.
The people in future would not be able to have `Ganga snan' (a hold dip) because after the completion of the Tehri Dam there would not be much water left to flow downstream, she said.
Water should not be made a commodity. It should remain sustainable, and local self-governments and people had rights over it. There was no substitute to water and the talk of alternatives in the form of bottled water or soft drink was a myth.
Dr. Shiva said the Kerala High Court judgment of December 16, 2003 — in a case filed by the Perumatty Grama Panchayat against the Coca Cola bottling plant at Plachimada — was historic as it reiterated the people's right to the natural resources. The judgment said water was not a commodity and it belonged to the people.
Forests, rivers and the groundwater were public property and governments did not have the right to divert rivers in the name of interlinking them.
In her paper on "Privatisation of water," Heidi Hautala, Member of Parliament of Finland, said there should be special measures to protect groundwater as it was not easily rechargable.
An international action committee would be formed to support the struggle of the people of Plachimada.
The general secretary of the Samajwadi Janparishad, Uttar Pradesh, Aflatoon, who is leading a struggle against Coca Cola in Mehdiganj, Varanasi, said the factory had been letting its toxic industrial waste into the neighbouring fields and mango groves. Solid chemical waste was also being dumped on nearby fields. The total area submerged by the factory waste was around 20 acres. The heavy consumption of underground water by the company had led to a lowering of the groundwater level from 15 feet to 40 feet and the level at the well built during Sher Shah's regime had fallen to 40 feet, he said.
The president of the Indian Newspaper Society, M.P. Veerendrakumar, in his paper "The World in Troubled Waters,'' said plentiful underground water in the Chittur area had brought the two Cola companies. Over-exploitation of groundwater resulted in water contamination and increasing scarcity of clean drinking water after the commissioning of the Cola plant had adversely affected the local people, particularly women. After the normal working hours, women now trekked long distances to collect potable water.
The secretary-general of the Janata Dal, K. Krishnankutty, one of the key organisers of the World Water Conference, said, "Plachimada is only a small drop in the ocean. The battle has just begun against a giant MNC with all the resources at its disposal. But we have decided to take this struggle to its logical conclusion to fight for our basic rights to have access to land, water and air which are the society's wealth so that millions of our people and generations to come will enjoy the freedom to use their natural resources."
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