Photo: Václav Drašnar/Church of Norway

Photo: Václav Drašnar/Church of Norway

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has long been concerned about the impact of water privatisation, and this week for the first time the council brought multi-stakeholders together to the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva to talk about it.

The 12 September gathering assembled those from India resisting water privatisation, Aquafed, the federation of private water operators along with representatives of the WCC-Ecumenical Water Network (EWN).

The WCC-EWN opposes water privatisation as it is a public good and it has joined campaigns to reverse the process in countries including in Germany, Greece, Philippines, etc. and in some 200 cities where water was privatised.

“This is the first time we have had multi-stakeholders coming together to talk about water privatisation from different perspectives,” said WCC-EWN coordinator Dinesh Suna.

Present were people from the churches, private water operators, people trying to bridge the gap between the private sections, communities and others.

This is an initial discussion on the magnitude of water privatisation, scrutinising it as a human right, looking to accessibility, affordability, quality, accountability and non-discrimination, etc., said Suna.

R. Ajayan, convenor of the Anti-Coca-Cola Resistance movement in Kerala, India said, “when the sole motive is to make profit, how can we expect the private water companies to cater to the needs of the poor?”

“Thomas Van Waeyenberge, senior adviser for Aquafed, noted that five out of eight people in the world are served by public-controlled water, two out of eight by the private sector and two by none.

“To facilitate effective water services around the world, it would take 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars. Therefore, collective action is needed. Public-Private Partnerships is the way forward.” The water activists were doubtful of private operators’ intent saying their track record is e far from satisfactory.

Dr Rajendra Singh, World Water Prize Laureate of 2015 World Water Week, who has driven decentralised water solutions said, “private companies are not the solutions…Focusing on community participation is the answer.”

Singh noted, “When somebody can bath every day -- when water comes there is happiness, peace and prosperity and it gives creativity and innovation in life.”


Ecumenical Water Network