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Protest against a Fashionable Bottle Water Rights Campaigns :: Asia Lutheran Communion :: Communication Creates Communion

Topic: 6.Viewpoints

Protest against a Fashionable Bottle Water Rights Campaigns

Posted by: LWF-Asia on Feb 15, 2007 – 08:51 PM | Read 1281 times

It became fashionable for Linus Njoroge, a street boy at the 7th World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi, Kenya, to carry one bottle of water in his hip pocket and another in his hand.

He had gone to the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani, to see "this big meeting" where thousands of people had converged to discuss the possibility of ‘another world’. But what he found out was that everyone there carried bottled water, unlike his, which he had filled in a nearby tap.

Njoroge’s case could be isolated, but the anger that marked the protests on water rights at the 20-25 January 2007 WSF tells of a new conflict, which might catch many governments unaware, according to some of the WSF participants.

The story from Ghana to India and most of the global South is that of multinational companies in cooperation with local authorities targeting water sources, carving out indigenous land and forests for themselves, bottling the water and selling it to the poor communities, which once owned it.

People’s Right to Land, Resources

Mr Kishore Kumar Nag, a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) delegation to the 2007 WSF said at a workshop that the water crisis was worsening in India as a result of government policy on privatization. Threatened by this development, the Lutheran churches in India have come together to try "to understand who are involved in the commercialization of water, the policy in this business, especially the privatization of people’s land," said Nag, associate director, Division of Social Action at the Chennai-based United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India (UELCI).

The UELCI official said companies want to acquire a lot of land, especially land owned by the poor and marginalized people, through these "unexplained privatization policies." But the churches argue that the people’s livelihoods depend on this land, and if that is taken away, the people will ultimately lose their life. "That’s why a lot of churches, ecumenical organizations and volunteer groups are coming together to fight these policies and to fight for people’s rights to water resources and land ownership," he said.

Movements at the WSF addressed this challenge through the launch of the African Water Network, aimed at guarding against the privatization of water. At the network’s inauguration in a workshop attended by people from 40 countries on 24 January, water activists said the global move to privatize water would worsen life for millions in Africa who are among the 1.1 billion with no access to water globally. Another 2.6 billion have inadequate water access.

"With this network, we are putting water privateers, governments and international financial institutions on [alert] that Africa will resist privatization," said Hassan Adam, a Ghanaian activist who organized the network. In the West African country, four rivers have reportedly been destroyed as a result of mining activities.

Water access remains unpredictable and very precarious in most of the world’s poor countries. In this situation, anti-poverty campaigners stressed that access to water resources is a prerequisite to ending or alleviating poverty.

Urgent Concern

Summing up the LWF’s participation in this year’s WSF, Mr Peter Prove, leader of the LWF delegation said, "Here in the World Social Forum, representatives of LWF member churches and field programs have the opportunity to gather information and build networks with civil society partners on the pressing issues they confront in their respective contexts. In more and more places around the world, access to water is one of the most pressing of these issues."

This was the first time the WSF has taken place in Africa. Some 70,000 registered delegates attended the annual forum of civil society movements and activists advocating against the negative aspects of globalization and their impact on the world’s poor people, under the theme "Another World Is Possible."

The water issue is one of the cross cutting themes of LWF’s work. A recent edition of Lutheran World Information (LWI) titled "Waters of Life," highlights some of the major debates about water including its privatizatio n, accessibility and theological implications. The LWI issue can be accessed on the LWF Web site at: http://www.lutheranworld.org/What_We_Do/OC S/LWI-2006-PDF/LWI-200609-EN-low.pdf (700 words)

(Reported for LWI by Nairobi-based journalist, Fredrick Nzwili.)

NAIROBI, Kenya/GENEVA, 29 January 2007 (LWI) –
7th World Social Forum
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