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Bangalore World Water Summit faces Protest from Rights Groups

New Delhi, February 1 : One can’t say if it is mere coincidence that the Bangalore World Water Summit (February 1-3) opens up today and on the same day major national dailies carry advertisements for India Water Week (April 10 – 14) to be held in New Delhi and organised by Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India. Both the events have catchy and progressive slogans as in ‘Right Ideas for Water Security’ and ‘Water Energy and Food Security, Call for Solutions’ but in reality is a forum for pushing water privatisation and increasing the share of corporations in the garb of providing better quality, management and services. These conferences and events organised with active participation industry bodies like FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM and big corporations are to prepare the ground for pushing water sector reforms and private sector participation in operation, water treatment and management.

Banaglore World Water Summit, is being organized by Center for Sustainable Development (CSD), under the leadership of its President Dr A Ravindra, IAS (retd.), Advisor to Chief Minister, Government of Karnataka. It is supported by Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India; Karnataka Water Board, Government of Karnataka; Institution of Public Health Engineers (India); Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board and Indian Water Works Association and Administrative Staff College (India). (as reported on India Water Portal, its official online partner)

However, under pressure from water rights activists Urban Development Minister, Government of Karnataka, S Suresh Kumar told Deccan Herald on 23rd January that the government has not released any money for the summit. “CSD, which is conducting the summit,is trying to raise funds from various organisations. But we have not given any money.”

People’s Campaign for Right to Water-Karnataka, a coalition of various individuals, people’s movements and NGOs has been at the forefront of opposition to the Summit and also actively resisted any move to push water privatisation in the state. Under attack from the PCRW urban development minister Suresh Kumar claimed that the privatisation of operation and management of water does not amount to privatisation, which the government is actively pushing.

MR Prabhakar, coordinator of the PCRW, said: “Operations and management of water is one of the core functions of water service utilities. Handing over these functions to private players and reducing the role of the government to a regulatory body is dangerous. Handing over constitutional responsibilities to private companies and reducing the role of the government to a regulatory body is a strategy adopted by market reforms and their sponsors. Suresh Kumar is playing into the hands of international financial institutions such as World Bank, ADB and so on, and private companies they advocate for.”

The campaigners have come out against the Bangalore water summit that will begin on Wednesday, claiming that the invitees and resource persons are all ‘pro’ privatisation. “Considering that all the resource persons and invitees at the summit are ‘pro-privatisation’, based on the work they have done and the companies they head, we believe that at this summit, no alternative view but that of privatisation will be promoted. One of the lead events Bangalore Water Walkathon organised on 5th February is organised in collaboration with Tata Swatch, a water purification Brand.

Across the country there has been attempts at pushing the privatisation of services such as Gulbarga, Hubli, Dharwad and Belgaum in Karnatak, Nagpur in Maharashtra, Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh and many other places with disastrous results but these models are being promoted as success at these events.

PCRW is organising a one-day summit at the Central College Grounds on February 2.The summit hopes to bring to the fore various issues pertaining to privatisation. Earlier it organised demonstrations, public awareness programmes, cycle rally, cultural performances etc to highlight the people’s right to water and other natural resources and expose the Bangalore water summit. See the detailed programme here.

References :
Banaglore Water Summit : http://www.bangalorewatersummit.com/
India Water Portal : http://www.indiawaterportal.org/event/21228
India water Week : http://www.indiawaterweek.in/index.aspx
Deccan Herald, dt January 16 : http://www.deccanherald.com/content/219822/govt-distances-itself-water-summit.html
DNA, dt February 1 : http://www.dnaindia.com/bangalore/report_privatisation-will-not-put-an-end-to-water-woes-activists_1644528