Fresh water is one of the world’s most critical resources, in many areas around the world it is under threat. Some places may be approaching the point of ‘pick water’ and therefore requires conservation effort for this critical resource to be sustained, without damaging the environment, economy and public health. All over the world, an estimated 2.8 billion face water shortages or scarcity by 2025. Local communities are left unable to cope with this challenge as it directly threatens their very livelihood. Fresh water resources have been affected by population growth, global warming, large scale agriculture, industrial manufacturing and waste water disposal. This is evidence of the fact that we are heading for a fresh water crisis.

The industrial use of fresh water resources and the disposal of waste water have been an issue of concern. Industries do not only create increasing competition among water users, waste water from manufacturing industries is a source of environmental pollution. Water pollution and sanitation are issues that are not only affecting the available fresh water sources, but also have huge repercussions for both local communities and the environment.

The Pacific region of Asia has in the last decade emerged as the world’s largest consumer of natural resources including water. In this region the distribution of fresh water resources remains a critical. Changes to global weather pattern and climate change is causing drought and floods in different areas in this region. These changes have cause increase challenges for efficient water resource management, not only for water managers, policy makers and business corporation (industrial and agriculture), but also for local communities whose very survival depends on this resource.

In 1999, Bolivia attempted to privatize water supply under the pretext of improving the management of a critical resource, this action met with stiff resistance that led to a popular uprising in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city. In its efforts to privatize all public enterprises the Bolivian government sold the airline, train service and electricity utility. When the policy was extended to water and sanitation system in Cochabamba, it ignited a water war.

The increase in water tariffs which follows and the combined effect of new legislation eroded local control over water sources that for centuries belong to the community. The uprising, spread over several months, finally forcing the government to terminate the contract. In April, 2000, water privatisation came to an end in Cochabamba city, following the privatisation in 1999.

The Cochabamba water war is not just a Bolivian story, wherever water is privatised, local communities lose control of a vital resource that is critical to their existence. Often this is accompanied by excess price increases to achieve profit targets and a lack of transparency. This raises questions over the wisdom of current initiatives for water privatisation, as promoted by international financial institutions. Community based initiative is therefore required to influence change, for the interest of the community. This is on the assumption that local solution will lead to improve sustainability. Water security is therefore expected to be one of the many global security concerns in the 21st century. The international community must intensify its effort to promote the issue of fresh water security, as part of a global policy.




  1. rukayat2012 Says:

    I agree with your arguement that fresh water should be available to everyone free of charge. Communities can come together to look after a common resource in this case water, in a sustainable way. It will be good to see communities and NGOs lobbying for access to water more. Sustainable ways of maintaing water and keeping water free from privatisation should be apart of the agenda for MDGs beyond 2015.

  2. diwuoha1 Says:

    I totally agree that water should be available for all, but there will always be someone who will want to make profit from privatizing water. Well, we will wait and see what happens beyond 2015.

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