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Feria del Agua – Cochabamba

Dear friends,
Just wanted to share a few words about the just-ended Feria del Agua in Cochabamba….a very important moment for our water movement, both 10 years ago and today!

Ten years ago the world was a different place. We had not awoken to the dangers of the neo-liberal agenda and corporate power, let alone the dangers of climate change overwhelming our already fragile ecosystem. Today most around the world are aware of the dangers of water privatisation, even if some governments and international financial institutions continue to embrace this failed concept.

One major event served as a catalyst for this shift in world view. This event was the Water War in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I believe the courage and strength of the peoples of Cochabamba allowed others to believe they too could fight corporate control of water and other examples of these most virulent forms of capitalism.

Over the past three days a group of international water activists have been honoured to be part of the Feria del Agua and to share commemoration of this historic event with the people of Cochabamba. We have marched with the Cochabambinos and Cochabambinas, listened and spoken during a series of events, and finished with a meeting of Red Vida and a trip to witness the challenges of delivering water to the impoverished southern zone of Cochabamba.

The Feria was divided into 5 thematic sessions:

  • Water Source Protection, Reversing Climate Change and Stopping Water Contamination;
  • Strategies for Strengthening Public Utilities-Community Partnerships (PUPs);
  • Constitutions and Legal Frameworks Countering All Forms of Water Privatization;
  • Community based Management and Public Water Management;
  • Constitutional changes and water normative.

Each of these thematic sessions produced strong statements – the statement from the Climate and Water session is forming the basis for our intervention in the Climate Summit currently being held in Cochabamba.

There were also a number of other panels – please go to http://feriainternacionaldelagua.org/ for a full listing of the events and speakers etc.

Here in Bolivia, the struggle continues. The Water War was not the end, it was a critical event and should be commemorated, but the struggle also continues here to achieve water justice. Those who want to know more can read this AlterNet report: http://www.alternet.org/story/146521/water_wars%3A_how_one_city%27s_fight_against_a_multinational_ignited_a_movement_battling_water_privatization/

Things are improving but around the world the struggle continues and even deepens as climate change devastates vulnerable communities. It is even worse in Bolivia in many respects as the number of disappearing tropical glaciers here make the impacts of climate change even more profound. Hope exists, it lies in the same things that made the water wars successful, the spirit of solidarity, justice and equity which brought the people onto the streets and into self-organized democratic events. This is what drove out the transnational Bechtel and led to the overthrow of a corrupt government in Bolivia. This is also what will allow us to implement the just, sustainable alternatives that are already out there, waiting to become the model for our future.

Water is a human right, public trust and commons. These are no longer just words, thanks to struggles by many grassroots activists working in their communities. We must clearly keep pushing against those who would privatize, commodify and control our water for profit!

Finally, I would like to say that from the moment we landed as international guests and comrades, being in Cochabamba has been a moving experience for us. I would like to thank our friends, who put many long hours to make the Feria a success, for inviting water activists to share in the moment. Many have been inspired by the events in Bolivia to become water activists but few will actually be able to come to Cochabamba – it has been very special to be here these days. During every event and meeting, the spirit of the struggle was present, the same spirit of our water justice movement which drives our work in communities around the world. Onward!