Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan addresses a water gathering in Thessaloniki via Skype to celebrate the first anniversary of a key win to maintain EYATH as a public water utility, May 2015.
Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan will be promoting our blue communities initiative in Spain and Greece this week.
A ‘blue community’ is a municipality that adopts a framework that recognizes water as a human right, opposes the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, and promotes publicly financed, owned and operated water and wastewater services. A blue community can also be an association, religious grouping, university, First Nation or union.
On November 3-5, the City of Madrid and the Spanish water justice network La Red Agua Pública España will be bringing together progressive and pro-public local governments from across Spain. Karunananthan will be speaking at that conference on the blue communities initiative and the role local governments and social movements can play to promote water justice. Celia Blauel, who is the deputy mayor of Paris and the president of the public water utility Eau de Paris, will also be at this conference.
Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow met with Blauel this past World Water Day when Paris was recognized as a blue community.
In March 2012, a popular referendum was held in Madrid to express opposition to regional government plans to privatize 49 per cent of Madrid’s public water utility. Water justice allies set up 236 polling stations across the city and asked residents to respond yes or no to the question, “Do you think the [public water utility] Isabel II Canal should remain 100 per cent public?” The results were overwhelmingly clear: 165,860 people voted in favour of continued 100 per cent public ownership, while just 1,227 people vote in support of its proposed privatization.
From Madrid, Karunananthan will travel to Thessaloniki in northern Greece for meetings on November 6-7.
While there, she will meet with the mayor of Thessaloniki and the head of its public water utility EYATH, the second largest water utility in the country. Our Greek water justice allies, notably Yiorgos Archontopoulos, have been hard at work and Thessaloniki is now poised to become a blue community on November 14.
Greece has been on the front lines of resistance to water privatization imposed by European and international institutions. A citizens mobilization and a ruling by the Greek Supreme Court in 2014 blocked an austerity-drive push to privatize EYATH and EYDAP, the Athens water utility. But just recently, the Greek parliament passed a piece of legislation that, among other measures, approved the privatization of these two public water companies. We join with our Greek allies to say that the aim of these water utilities should be to provide clean water and guarantee sewage treatment, not generate profits to pay creditors.
In 2012, a Blue Planet Project report concluded, “There is no separate justification for the privatisation of the two water companies. Government uses the general rationale of needing to sell public assets to pay off the debt burden, because otherwise we won’t have ‘money for salaries and pensions’. This line is repeated as an excuse for every measure that the government, the Central European Bank and the IMF want to impose. We believe that privatisation will have the same results and impacts experienced elsewhere – namely, it will result in decreased access, higher rates and lower quality of service.”
The Blue Planet Project gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the City of Madrid, EYATH, and Public Services International in making this intervention possible.
Madrid votes on water privatization in popular referendum (March 5, 2012)
Blue Planet in solidarity with Initiative 136 in Greece (March 18, 2012)