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India News: Here come the water warriors
Indo-Asian News Service
01/12/04

New Delhi, Fighting commodification of water and highlighting people's fundamental right over it, international water activists have gathered in the Indian capital. The People's World Water Forum (PWWF) activists will chalk out strategies to counter the "designs" of multinational water corporations PWWF claims to be an alternative to the World Water Forum, which the former accuses of being a think tank run by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and major water corporations.

Inaugurated here Monday, the grouping is an attempt to build a network of water partners and anti-privatisation movements for water rights around the globe.

Activists say the privatisation of water and putting it on sale in the international market is totally unacceptable.

"How can you commodify something that is considered sacred in many cultures?" asked Riccardo Petrella, secretary general of International Committee for Global Water Contract, at the launch.

Apart from forging strategies against water corporations, the activists also expressed opposition to the Tehri dam in the hills of northern India and the massive industrial use of water from the Plachimada area in Palakkad district of Kerala in the south.

Under a Rs.1.3 trillion project, water stored at the Tehri Dam in Uttaranchal will be transported to the thirsty national capital. The project aims at privatising the city's water distribution management.

Water activists pledged to oppose privatisation of water in Delhi, insisting that water should remain in public hands.


"Privatisation has not worked for people in the West and we want to tell people here that it would not work here either," said Petrella.

His colleague Tony Clarke of Canada said the Suez water corporation, which will manage Delhi's water, was kicked out the Atlanta city council in US two years into its 20-year deal.

The reason was Suez's inability to fulfil its promises, including providing clean water.

A Ghana activist who visited the Tehri Dam site in Uttaranchal alleged that Suez had sub-contracted the construction work to Indian companies at lower rates and was making profits in the process.

Vandana Shiva, director of the Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, warned that if Delhi's water privatisation scheme went ahead in its existing state, people in the capital would have to pay up to 10 times more for water.

She said the project had displaced the local population of Tehri.

"Besides snatching people's fundamental right over water, the project will result in massive flooding and make the area earthquake prone," Shiva claimed.

She said public resistance against the dam was paying dividends, with work on a 600-km pipeline stretch to Delhi stopped due to farmers' protests.

Peterella and his associates are also planning to discuss ways of making parliamentarians from around the world agree to declaring water a human right.

"Dominant political powers across the globe have told us this isn't possible but we will continue to persist," he said.


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