JSAPMDD Perspective and Platform on WATER Resources and Water ServicesWater, especially freshwater, is fundamental to life. Access to water is a human right. It is fundamental to survival but also to a quality of life that is humane, healthy and sustainable. Water use should be understood not only in terms of urban water consumption or piped-in water services but also as it applies to farming communities and water-dependent communities.

Sufficient amount of water to meet the basic needs for a healthy life must be guaranteed for everyone and not conditioned on the ability to pay. This is one of the basic obligations of all States.

Water sources are part of the "commons." They are to be shared equitably by all and to be protected and managed properly, democratically and sustainably. Control over water resources and services must be in the public domain and should not be privatized.

pdfJSAPMDD Perspective and Platform on WATER Resources and Water Services
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A Global Water Crisis

There is a global water crisis and the majority of the world's population and communities are facing many water injustices:

  • Most people and communities in the South are unable to access adequate, clean and safe water.

  • There is severe lack of sanitation for the rural and urban poor communities, leading to destruction of clean surface and ground water and huge health problems.

  • In the conflict over water uses – resolutions to the conflict are often biased against rural and urban poor communities, households, and environmental protection and in favor of private corporations and multinationals, big landowners, industrial and commercial use.

  • Freshwater resources are already facing serious degradation because of pollution, abuse, deforestation, excessive extraction of groundwater, water-destructive agricultural practices, megawater storage projects, the effects of climate change and the environmentally destructive impacts of the global economic system.

  • Freshwater is finite and in the face of these threats, is decreasing in quantity and especially because of industrial and urban stress, is deteriorating in quality. The demand for water is rising with the growth in population but much more because of the exponentially expanding demand for natural resources resulting from the insatiable and unsustainable nature of capitalist mode of production and technology, marked by the relentless pursuit of profit and consequent over-production and consumption at the expense of people and planet.

Privatization of Water

In the last two decades, there has been an intensive drive to privatize water. There are now only a handful of global water corporations spreading their investments and control over huge portion of water resources and services in many countries.

Experiences of peoples and communities in Asia in the last decades have shown that privatization has led to:

  • Diminishing of access by marginalized and impoverished communities and sectors and the violation of the human right to water

  • Declining quality of water and water services

  • Undermining of democratic governance and community control of water

  • Deterioration of conservation, protection and sustainable management of water resources

  • Increasing suffering of women

  • Increasing prices of water utilities, sanitation and waterworks.

  • Direct exacerbation of climate change.

Climate Change and Water

Climate change has both direct and indirect impacts on water – by affecting hydrologic cycles (e.g. precipitation and evaporation), freshwater sources (ex. glaciers), sea levels and salinity, movement of oceans, and water consumption patterns. One of the most immediate effects is the availability and access to freshwater, and this in turn affects food, health and economic activities, among others. False solutions to climate change also have negative impacts on water, such as the intensive and large-scale promotion of agro and bio fuels as alternative energy.

Transformation of the Global Capitalist System

The global capitalist system breeds abuse, overexploitation and destruction of natural resources such as water. This system that has resulted to the emergence and intensification of the water and climate crisis must be fundamentally transformed.

Calls and Demands

  1. Fight for the protection of peoples' rights and access to sufficient, affordable, clean, quality water and the sustainable use & management of water resources.

  2. Fight for democratically managed, efficient, environmentally sound public water services that ensure universal and equitable access to adequate and quality water. Priority must be given to the equitable use of water to meet basic human needs and satisfy the right to water. Alternative water management systems and programs must be developed and put in place.

  3. Halt and reverse the privatization and commodification of water; Stop the incursion and expansion of global water corporations in water services in the region. Resist the efforts of the international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the ADB to push water privatization and other forms of commodification of water using loans, policy conditionalities, "technical assistance" and other means. Expose and oppose their collusion with global water corporations, international consultant agencies and Southern elites and governments.

  4. Protect water sources and water services from the dominance and control of profit-motivated private interests. Resist and oppose corporate land and water grabs. Water bodies/resources are part of the commons and should be under the control of communities. Further, global water discourse must not be allowed to be dominated by technical and corporate-controlled institutions.

  5. Ensure proper sanitation services for rural and urban poor for their health and welfare and also so that no surface and ground water is polluted.

  6. Exclude water from global trade agreements. Remove Water from the coverage of World Trade Organization (WTO) and General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); Reject NAFTA, FTAs and all other trade agreements and investment agreements that treat water as a commodity and facilitate privatization of water services.

  7. Expose and stop international financial institutions, in particular the World Bank and ADB from promoting and financing projects that cause harm to watersheds and water reservoirs, disrupt the water cycle and exacerbate the water and climate crisis.

  8. All loans used for the privatization of water should be treated as illegitimate and thus should be refused, canceled or repudiated. Expose and resist the linkages between the debt and privatization of water.

  9. Stop the building of new mega-dam projects which not only dislocate communities and peoples but also cause harm to farmlands, forests and watersheds and other elements of the environment. Mega-hydroelectric dams should not be included in the energy alternatives programs for climate mitigation.

  10. Oppose the building of new extractive projects, nuclear plants, and industrial plantations that pose serious environmental and health hazards and risks, including the wastage of huge amounts of water.

  11. Seek restitution and reparations for water related policies and projects that have negative effects on people's health, food sovereignty and livelihood, and cause the destruction of water and other natural resources

  12. Change laws and establish mechanisms to ensure that peoples and communities' rights are given primacy and are not violated in the resolution of conflicts in water uses, and in water resource management policies. Laws formulated must be founded on democratic sustainability.

  13. Build public awareness of the water injustices and the crisis. Educate the public on how to use, conserve, and manage water resources. Advocate for lifestyle change and shared responsibility for managing water resources.

  14. Compel governments worldwide to recognize and address water injustices and the water crisis and take appropriate urgent steps. Oppose policies that take advantage of the water crisis in order to justify and push for privatization and commodification of water. Push for the incorporation of the UN Declaration on the Right to Water in national legislations.

  15. Fight for democratic and sustainable governance and management of ecosystems that promotes equitable use and preserves the integrity of the water cycle.

    1. Create democratic watershed management bodies that include upstream water stewards in water management, even in urban areas. Water use conflicts should be mediated and resolved through these bodies that can work across political boundaries to ensure coordinated water use.

    2. The critical role of rural and indigenous peoples' communities in the effective stewardship of watersheds and other environmental resources that are vital to freshwater resources (ex forests) must be recognized. Water resource management programs must include these communities and peoples and respect and uphold their rights.

    3. Ensure that women, especially marginalized and grassroots, have equal participation in the decision making process of managing water and other natural resources.

    4. Since water does not respect boundaries, proper water management systems must include policies on equitable sharing across borders.

    5. Ensure that a nation's water resources be one of the fundamental considerations in every government policy at all levels, as well as in inter-governmental agreements.

    6. Full diversion of river systems should not be allowed as this deprives communities of water and is harmful to the ecosystem.

  16. Climate agreements, policies and programs at the international and national levels must address water as one of the central issues in climate.

    1. Healthy hydrological cycles are critical to mitigating climate change and to protect these cycles, water must not be commodified or privatized, but rather protected as a commons and as a fundamental right.

    2. Water is a major part of climate adaptation. Many other adaptation concerns such as human health, coastal zones, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, are also water-related. Ensure that there is adequate and additional climate finance for climate change impacts on water in all relevant sectors for all South countries.

    3. Ensure that climate programs that rely on the availability of water should be within the framework of community-designed and controlled integrated water resources management system, to avoid future shortages of water for essential needs.

  17. Fight for the transformation of states and the establishment of democratic governments so that they become true instruments of people power. These are vital requirements towards sustainable and democratic management of water resources and services.

  18. Work for the transformation of the global economic and financial system that includes the fundamental restructuring of ownership of resources, of production and of consumption ensuring people's sovereign rights– the only strategic solution to the global water crisis and the way to ensure that water is managed and shared equitably, sustainably, and democratically.