To the World Water Council
My objective today, coming here with my canoe, rowing from Bordeaux to Marseille, is to draw everyone’s attention on the importance of water as precious source of life for all living beings of our planet, and remind once again that it is a living resource and not a good.
The policies lead in relation to water and the dangerous commercial drifts and money related relationships should remain out of the meaning of existence of a river. Water is necessary for all living and non-living entities, without making any difference between human beings, animals, plants, stones or soil; it is essential to life on Earth. This is why it should be protected, why it should not be polluted, it should not be taken out of its river bed and it should not be sold to make profit out of it.
The price of the frenzy of consumption of our industrialised society – based solely on human beings – is paid by local populations living far away from cities and consumption centres and paid by the Nature. In order to avoid abuse and to allow a fair distribution of water, we ask the World Water Council to adapt its work to the requirements of today’s reality.
Why the members of this Council are not volunteers working for environmental protection, or activists, or social workers instead of people working for the companies which try by all means to make profit out of water, which extract water out of the rivers, which sell water in packs or destroy woods, wetlands and their inhabitants?
The Amazon River and its forest are polluted and devastated every day by oil, energy and logging business companies. This region is deforested, transformed into traditional or GMO soya fields by Burger King or Monsanto Bayer. As regards the indigenous population and activists, they are killed by henchmen paid by these companies. In Honduras, Berta Caceres, activist opposed to the building – by Energéticos SA and Agua Zerca, internationally financed company – of a hydroelectric power plant threatening the Gualcarque River, is just another victim along so many others. The authors of her murder are still free and active.
The Belo Monte dam, project of French energy companies, became an over-ambitious project for water extraction and energy production. In a political point of view, it is a good example of collusion between private companies and states, including the payment of bribes. Despite all this, life goes on and will still go on. The living beings of rivers and forests of Amazonia will still exist in their great diversity.
With its 41 members (13%), Turkey is the third country represented in the World Water Council. These 41 members are representatives of big companies in the world of public works in Turkey, mainly active in building and engineering works like Ceylan İnşaat (Construction), Doğuş İnşaat, Ecetur, Eren İnşaat, Güriş İnşaat, İçtaş İnşaat, Kiska İnşaat, Limak İnşaat, Nurol İnşaat, Peker İnşaat, Tefken Holding, Yüksel İnşaat and Ünal group, among others. The common characteristic of these companies is the fact that they all have a part of their activities linked to water like the building of dams, water infrastructures, water treatment plans… and that they all collaborate with worldwide water trust companies.
Let’s remind the main principles and responsibilities mentioned in the Mexico World Water Forum in 2006: We consider water as the main vital element on our planet and as a right for life for all living beings. We insist on the importance of creating a solidarity between the present and the future generations on water conservation. We refuse water to be sold or bought and insist on the fact that access to water is fundamental and is crucial for life.
Facing the industrial supremacy, people living in places where drought is dramatically endured developed techniques to protect water and showed that lack of water could even lead to fertility with lower water needs.
Examples exist of alternative democracies where people can participate to decision making, like “Pani Panchayat” in India. This movement tries to create, in a region threatened by drought, a fair, ecological and sustainable water management system. This movement began in 1972 when the Maharasthra was confronted to a severe drought. Limits to the use of water were imposed to the sugar cane plantations, sugar cane being a profitable product that requires too much water. In the Alwar region, in Rajahstan, the excessive use of water lowered the level of groundwater reserves of one meter every year.
After this period of drought, the youth organisation Tarun Bharat Sangh mobilised the population to build “johads”, traditional water tanks, to collect water. The local groups succeeded to collect 2.2 million dollars to finance the building of 2,500 tanks in 500 villages. Each village shares the “johad” collected water and determine themselves the allocation of water between irrigation and home use. This collective decision-making process about the building of water systems and use of water helps avoiding conflicts.
Initiatives from organisations like Swadhyaya, Atarub, Bharat Sangh, Mukti Sangharsh and Pani Panchayat show that a democratic control on water management leads to a sustainable use of water. A collective control prevents social conflicts and ecological and environmental destruction. Over the centuries, local water management systems, based on aged-old experience, turned slowly into systems focused on the use and marketing of a single product: water.
This change leads to the suppression of the core rights of all beings living in harmony with nature and to line the pockets of people considering nature as a pure marketing item.
The Sioux in Standing Rock – and many other Native American tribes joined them in the meantime – began to struggle against the building of a pipeline, called “Black Snake”, crossing the sacred lands of their ancestors and destroying burial, prayer and other ceremonial sites. They named themselves “Water Protectors”. They stand on the fact that a leak from the pipeline in the Oahe Lake or the Mni Sose (Missouri river) is a real environmental threat that could poison all living beings in the area. We hope that such threat will not be ignored and that, just like the Water Protectors, states, governments and even private companies won’t develop and maintain such projects. Protecting water is protecting life, the planet and our future. Because without water, no life!
Man-made water shortage, conflicts due to water could be drastically reduced by establishing the main principle of water being a common source of life. All movements promoting water conservation also prove that the solution to the water crisis resides in the energy, the efforts, to the attention that humans dedicate to its conservation and the resulting solidarity. The most effective alternative to water monopolies are local democracies built around local water management.
Another example is “Alakır Nehri Kardeşliği” (Alakır River fraternity) in Anatolia. This is a group of volunteers performing legal and activist actions to protect the valley of Alakır river valley and implementing a sustainable life project. They make use of local political and ecological actors for long-term solutions, in opposition to big companies’ theorists who would propose a market approach. Struggles go on in many places like Hasankeyf, Munzur or in the Black Sea Basin.
The outcome of these struggles, of the actions done by these activist groups, these movements is the creation of a ‘Charter for Environmental Rights” including the right to a clean industry, to a reinforced security for hazardous waste, a right for information, for participation and an obligation to a tax, to compensate, to clean up for the polluter (the “polluter pays” principle). These rights are fundamental principles for water democracy, where all aspects linked to water are protected for the citizen and for life. The States are obliged to ensure the enforcement of these rights.
There are nine principles underpinning water democracy:
1. Water is nature’s gift. We receive water freely from nature. We owe it to nature to use this gift in accordance with our sustenance needs, to keep it clean and in adequate quantity. Diversions that create arid or waterlogged regions violate the principles of ecological democracy.
2. Water is essential to life. Water is the source of life for all species. All species and ecosystems have a right to their share of water on the planet.
3. Life is interconnected through water. Water connects all beings and all parts of the planet through the water cycle. We all have a duty to ensure that our actions do not cause harm to other species and other people.
4. Water must be free for sustenance needs. Since nature gives water to us free of cost, buying and selling it for profit violates our inherent right to nature’s gift and denies the poor of their human rights.
Water is limited and exhaustible if used non-sustainably. Non-sustainable use includes extracting more water from ecosystems than nature can recharge (ecological non-sustainability) and consuming more than one’s legitimate share, given the rights of others to a fair share (social non-sustainability).
6. Water must be conserved. Everyone has a duty to conserve water and use water sustainably, within ecological and just limits.
7. Water is a commons.Water is not a human invention. It cannot be bound and has no boundaries. It is by nature a commons. It cannot be owned as private property and sold as a commodity.
8. No one holds a right to destroy. No one has a right to overuse, abuse, waste, or pollute water systems. Tradable-pollution permits violate the principle of sustainable and just use.
9. Water cannot be substituted. Water is intrinsically different from other resources and products. It cannot be treated as a commodity.
“Community environmental bill of rights”
Vandana Shiva, Water Wars.
Inhabitants of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes ZAD | Spanish, Catalonian, Basque, Swiss and French activists for social ecology | Janet Biehl | Vincent Gerber | Merhaba Hevalno Collectif | Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition | Hasankeyf’i Yaşatma Girişimi (Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive) | Alakır Nehri Kardeşliği (Friends Of Alakır River) | Munzur Çevre Derneği | Karadeniz isyandadır Platformu (Black Sea is in Riot) | Magazine Gaia Dergi…