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Great Lakes Article:

UN Joins Hands With Minnesota Group to Protect Great Lakes

Corporations are now legally taking over ownership of the Great Lakes and selling it for massive private profits.

12/07/2002

Duluth, MN - The World Bank is projecting that by the year 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will lack adequate access to fresh drinking water. The United Nations (UN) recognizes this as a global freshwater crisis, but corporate executives see it as an opportunity to reap massive profits especially in the wake of Fortune Magazine's recent declaration that water is "the oil of the 21st century."

New corporate bottling companies are now being built around the Great Lakes region, which contain 95% of the US surface freshwater supply. Each bottling company can legally drain up to 500 gallons/minute from the water supply and sell it for personal profit. Corporations have also taken over the city drinking water supply in communities around the world, leading to disasterous situations for those who simply can't afford to pay for water. The privatization of water, or "blue gold" as it has been referred to by Perrier bottling company is now a $200 billion/year industry.

At a press conference on Friday in Duluth, Minnesota, Craig Minowa, Technical Director for the Environmental Association for Great Lakes Education (EAGLE) expressed concerns about the ramifications of the recent gubernatorial election. "The governors of the Great Lakes states have the power to allow the region's water to be drained and sold for corporate profit. This is why Perrier has successfully acquired permits for water bottling facilities in Wisconsin and Michigan." According to Minowa, the election of Tim Pawlenty for governor in Minnesota now puts Lake Superior's waters at risk.

During the election, a spokesperson for the Pawlenty Campaign said that as long as a proposed bottling facility withdrew water from Lake Superior within current legal limits, Pawlenty would not be in opposition. Minowa said current legislation sets those legal limits too high. "The Perrier bottling facility in Michigan drains up to 500 gallons a minute out of the Lake Michigan watershed. In other words, legal limits allow every individual bottling facility to sell public water at an outrageous rate of over 200 million gallons per year." said Minowa.

The increasing pressure to privatize Great Lakes water isn't just a regional issue. The Great Lakes hold a full 20% of the planet's surface freshwater, and in a world where over a billion people now lack access to safe freshwater, the manner in which this resource is managed is critical.

On December 3rd, the UN's Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) released a statement on water privatization stating that "water is a limited natural resource and a public commodity fundamental to life and health...[it] should be treated as a social and cultural good, and not primarily as an economic commodity." The United Nations is also declaring the year 2003 "The International Year of Freshwater" with hopes of bringing more public attention to the global water crisis.

Minowa said this UN focus provides a prime opportunity to strengthen legislation and international agreements to protect the Great Lakes from privatization. EAGLE has already been setting the stage for these impending political discussions.

EAGLE served as a Great Lakes advisor during this summer's negotiations of world leaders at the Earth Summit in Africa and will be working more closely with the United Nations on the issue of water privatization during the coming year.

EAGLE is the largest nonprofit educational organization in the nation dedicating the majority of its resources to help citizens of Great Lakes states keeps ownership of their water. National Geographic recently interviewed EAGLE as an expert on Great Lakes water anti-privatization issues and will be airing a series focused on the water privatization issue in December. Craig Minowa, EAGLE's technical director, states "EAGLE welcomes the international attention from the UN and National Geographic; hopefully citizens and legislators respond by supporting the anti-privatization campaign."

For more information or to TAKE ACTION go to EAGLE's home page at www.EAGLE-EcoSource.org .

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