Sunday, February 27, 2011

Water is a Human Right

Hello every one!

I've been busy with a lot of things. One of them has been a revisit to an environment issue that we hoped had been dealt with in London.

A few weeks ago, John Challinor - who works for the Canadian, bottled-water sales branch of mega-corp Nestle, which has a 2010 annual revenue of $116 Billion! - wrote a chummy letter to the new mayor of London. 'Dear Joe' it began ... departing from the formality one expects from anyone approaching the City through proper channels.

It was the opening pitch in trying to get London council to rescind its policy of not selling bottled water in City buildings. The request made it past the standing committee level and hits Council tomorrow night.

In August 2008 London council voted to bring in a policy that phased out the sales of bottled water in City owned buildings. This was to be done as infrastructure was put in place to ensure that the City's own safe tap water was available to those who wanted it. Part of the policy was that anyone who wanted to bring bottled water into the facilities was able to do so, so that there would be no burden on Londoners. I'm very careful to not use the word 'ban' which is so handily used by media and others.

I'm hoping we have 8 sensible men and women on council who will not let the policy be rescinded, or even 'sent back to staff' for review. I'm pretty sure we do.

If anything, I am more concerned about a broad range of issues that have to do with water than I was in 2008: the effects of water-extraction on regional aquifers, fossil-fuel used in all aspects of production and transportation of bottled water, recycling inadequacies, international water rights, the 'manufactured need' of bottled water being immediately available and its advertising that denigrates cities' tap water, and the contrast of our privileges in even having bottled water while over one billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water (indeed, their water makes them sick).

I agree with the words of Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute (1):

Nestle's oft-repeated claim that bottled water does not compete with tap water and only with other bottled beverages is nonsense. Why then would Nestle fly around the country trying to convince even the smallest city council to rescind actions to curb bottle water sales?

Just this week, Nestle executive John Challinor was in British Columbia fighting to stop a single high school from removing bottled water from its buildings.(2)

Given that the growth in overall bottle water sales in North America has retracted recently in part due to greater awareness about the negative impacts of these products, it's clear that Nestle sees public tap water as the real competition.

Access to safe water is something that should be a human right, something that should be in the commons. I've put a link below to the Council of Canadians' water campaign material.

To me, there's clearly a 'follow the money' aspect to Nestle Waters assault on London. Nestle, like other water companies and the beverage bottlers (who pretty well all sell water too) are trying to take over water all around the world. There's a big word - commodify - and it always seems to refer to making people pay a lot of money for something that should be one of the basics of life and freely available.

London City Council, Monday, Feb. 28/11 - 5:00 p.m. We're looking to fill the gallery.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

(1) Bottled water’s 15 minutes near an end

VOX POP By TONY CLARKE, Polaris Institute in London Free Press, February 26, 2011

(2) Bottled water stays - No changes to system until new schools built

The Richmond, B.C. Record February 26, 2011

(3) Council of Canadians, water campaign

No comments: