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Barlow warns that Nestle is seeking control of the Guarani Aquifer

Barlow speaking in defence of the Guarani Aquifer, November 2011.

Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow says, “Water hunter Peter Brabeck of Nestle wants to control the Guarani Aquifer in Brazil!”

Reuters reports, “On Tuesday [September 20]. Brazil launched a multibillion-dollar plan to auction off oil, power rights and infrastructure concessions. The government will sell operating licenses for airports in the cities of Porto Alegre, Salvador, Florianopolis and Fortaleza by the first quarter of 2017. It also plans to sell rights to operate federal roads in the center-west and south regions later next year. Center-right President Michel Temer has vowed to shift economic policy away from the interventionist policies of his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff.”

The Correio do Brasil adds (in Portuguese) that this “privatizing wrath” could extend to the Guarani Aquifer. According to the newspaper, a senior official at the National Water Agency (ANA) has revealed that the Guarani aquifer will appear on the list of public goods to be privatized.

The aquifer, located beneath the surface of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, is one of the world’s largest aquifer systems and is an important source of fresh water.

The Correio do Brasil article highlights, “Representatives of [Nestle and Coca-Cola] have held meetings with government authorities to formulate procedures for exploitation by private companies of water sources, especially in the Guarani Aquifer, in concession contracts for over 100 years – [the senior official] added.”

In November 2011, Barlow spoke in defence of the Guarani Aquifer at a conference in Florianapolis, Brazil. Her speech noted various threats to water then highlighted, “So this leads me to my biggest concern and that is the potential for the Guarani to become controlled by private interests. Already, corporations have preferential access to these waters. …You are sitting atop a vast reserve of water in a very thirsty world, a reserve that is not only vital to the health and future of this region but to all of humanity. It is a treasure that must be protected by governments on behalf of the people and the ecosystems of the region.”

In June 2014, Barlow wrote, “Brazil is known as a water-wealthy country. But what I discovered from various previous trips there is that the country is polluting, diverting and exporting its water heritage (as ‘virtual’ water in commodity exports such as biofuels, rice and beef) to such an extent that it is now entering a crisis of water in spite of its water abundance. As well, the massive cutting of the Amazon is dramatically affecting rainfall. Major parts of Brazil are experiencing severe drought unprecedented in living memory. And the vast waters of the Guarani Aquifer are in danger from over-extraction, pollution and corporate plunder.”

And in March 2015, Barlow was on CBC Radio’s The Current talking about the water crisis in Brazil. She noted, “My deep belief is that we are not looking at the big picture when we create economic and development policy. Almost every government in the world bases all their policies on the growth imperative. Unlimited growth, more stuff, more trade, less regulation, more power to the corporations. It’s no coincidence that it’s good for certain wealthy groups that can buy their way out of this crisis. This system is destroying water. We do not have the right kind of thinking in most capitals.”

In her book Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, Barlow highlights Brazil’s support for the United Nations resolution on the right to water and sanitation (page 31) and its non-participation in bilateral investment treaties (page 230), but also notes its fast-tracking of approvals for water use for mining and other unsustainable water intensive practices (page 260), the use of water for the production of biofuels (page 177-79), the impact of virtual water exports (page 168), and the growing threat of desertification there (page 16).

The World Water Forum, which is convened by big business lobby organizations like the Global Water Partnership, the World Bank, and the leading for-profit water corporations on the planet to discuss how transnationals can benefit from selling water to markets around the world, will take place in Brazil in March-April 2018.

The Council of Canadians has just launched a boycott campaign to stop Nestle profiting from water, more on that here.