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Barlow talks Energy East, Nestle & blue communities at ‘Untrouble the Waters’ summit

Maude Barlow and the Freshwater Lab team at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Council of Canadians chairperson spoke at the ‘Untrouble the Waters’ summit at the University of Illinois in Chicago yesterday.

As noted in the promotion for the summit, “Various concerns impacting the Great Lakes region will be the focus when government officials, researchers and community leaders from the U.S. and Canada convene at ‘Untrouble the Waters’, a summit organized by The Freshwater Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Panels and working groups will address critical issues impacting the Great Lakes region, such as lead poisoning, oil pipelines, budget cuts, clean water access and environmental protection.”

In her speech, Barlow highlighted these key points:

1- The water crisis in North America – “All of these crises – the disappearing rivers of China, the almost fully polluted waters of India and Russia, the fact that Pakistan and Yemen among other countries may run out of water by 2025, the first ever massive drought in Brazil, the worst drought in a century in East Africa, a parched and sinking Mexico City – and all the human and other suffering that accompanies this crisis – are on our doorstep in North America, either here in some form now or coming.”

2- Energy East tar sands pipeline – “TransCanada plans to build Energy East, an export oil pipeline that would carry tar sands crude from Alberta to the Atlantic coast. Energy East would be the biggest pipeline in North America, and would traverse the northern tip of Lake Superior, follow the Great Lakes basin east and pass under the St Lawrence River, crossing almost 3,000 waterways on its journey. The record of pipeline companies for detecting and stopping spills is abominable to begin with, but spilled diluted bitumen is especially dangerous to water and human health.”

3- Nestle water takings – “Nestle is taking well over one million gallons (four million litres) of water a day from the Grand River that flows into Lake Erie. The company has just acquired access to another well when it outbid the local municipality for the water. Nestle pays the province $3.71 per 250,000 gallons and is sucking water out of a waterway upon which 11,000 First Nations people have no access to running water. …No matter what price Nestle and other bottled water companies pay for this water, all of the Great Lakes watershed must be off limits to this industry.”

4- Water protection legislation – “Our previous Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, set out to make war with the environmental community, fired thousands of scientists and researchers, closed down or deeply cut most of our major water research institutes, including the one that dealt with the Great Lakes, and gutted with three most important water laws – the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. 99% of our lakes and rivers are now without federal protection. We are desperately trying to have these laws reinstated…”

5- Blue communities – “I would love to see many Great Lakes municipalities become a ‘Blue Community’, where they would pledge to recognize water as a human right, maintain their water services under public control and promote tap water over bottled water where clean tap water is available. This project started in Canada where 19 cities have come Blue Communities but has spread to Europe where cities like Berne, Switzerland and Paris, France have gone ‘Blue’. So too have a number of universities and faith based communities.”

To read her complete speech, please click here.