Privatising water

Posted: 9 June 2003

Many governments and municipalities in developing countries are attempting to reduce waste and increase revenue by charging even the poorest communities for water - often through meters.

And many big water companies see the privatisation of water supplies around the world as a way of boosting profits.

In South Africa, for example, municipalities have been encouraged to turn debt-ridden water utilities into profitable operations that can attract private investment. Some have granted long-term management concessions to private multinationals.

But while South African officials say the change of policy has expanded water services to 8 of the 13 million people who did not have water when apartheid ended, it has not helped many poor communities who find it difficult or impossible to pay.

According to the Municipal Services Project some 5 million people have had their water supply cut off in South Africa since the end of white minority rule.

In South Africa and many other developing countries, such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, this has resulted in strong resistance and public protests from desperately poor people who say their right to a clean water supply has been removed.

Source: New York Times, 29 May 2003 and others.