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NEWS: Rio+20 ‘green economy templates’ point to dams, water privatization

The United Nations News Centre reports, “Successful water projects can serve as templates around the world and help to stimulate the adoption of green economies, a conference (in Zaragoza, Spain) run by the United Nations inter-agency group focused on water issues has heard (in preparation for the Rio+20 conference in June 2012). …Experts predict that the amount of water needed by humans could exceed the amount available by as much as 40 per cent by 2030, making water management a priority in the sustainability agenda. Water is also closely linked to the green economy because it is interwoven with sustainable development issues such as health, food security, energy and poverty.”

“The (Zaragoza conference) placed a special focus in showcasing already successful projects of how water can be a major contributor to developing a green economy. They included: the four major rivers project in the Republic of Korea; the reform of the urban water supply and sanitation sector in Yemen; water planning in Laos; and the improvement of the water supply in Burkina Faso. ‘These cases may act as templates and stimulate the development of green economies in other countries,’ said Reza Ardakanian, Director of the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development.”

Wikipedia entries offer warnings on these “templates” for green economies.

South Korea: The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is a “multi-purpose green growth project on the Han River, Nakdong River, Geum River and Yeongsan River. …(The project) has attracted significant criticism from environmental groups in South Korea and wider international groups such as Friends of the Earth. …(The project includes the construction of) 16 dams in main streams of the four major rivers. Then (hundreds of kilometres of) the rivers will turn into artificial stepped lakes. …In spite of so many problems including environmental and socioeconomic problems, The Four Major Rivers Project carried out by the Lee Myung-Bak government has ignored nearly all the legal and democratic procedures that were required for the project.”

Yemen: “(In the) mid-1990s a wide-ranging reform process was initiated, flanked by substantial donor support. Through the reforms urban service provision was decentralized to commercially run local corporations that set their own tariffs. The utilities substantially increased tariffs, despite the political sensitivity of the topic in a poor country, and managed to increase cost recovery. Despite these increases water remains affordable with the average share of total monthly household expenditure on water and sewerage at about 1.1% of total expenditures. …Between 1995 and 2008, 2.8 million people in Yemen gained access to an improved water source and 7.5 million to improved sanitation.”

Laos: “The Laotian authorities have recently developed an innovative regulatory framework for Public-Private partnership contracts signed with small enterprises, in parallel with the more classic regulation of State-owned water enterprises.”

Burkina Faso: “(The government has) integrated certain principles of market-oriented sector reforms into its own policies in order to further increase the performance of the public utility (ONEA). In rural areas, a 2004 decentralization law has given responsibility for water supply to the country’s 301 municipalities which have no track record in providing or contracting out these services. …Municipalities are contracting out service provision to local private companies, or in some cases to ONEA. …Another element of the urban sector reform was…to improve commercial practices of ONEA through a short-term performance-based service contract with a private company (won by Veolia in 2001). …The contract covered the management of customer service and bill collections on behalf of ONEA, but kept the technical operation of the system and the supervision of the contract in the hands of the public utility. …The World Bank today considers ONEA ‘a mature corporation, similar in all respects to a private corporation’.”

The UN News Centre report adds, “UN-Water also announced that a global status report on the ‘application on integrated approaches to the development, management and use of water resources’ will be launched at Rio+20 next June.”

The full article is at

The Council of Canadians continues to develop its analysis of Rio +20, the green economy and water and intends to intervene at the June 4-6, 2012 summit in Rio. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and water campaigner Meera Karunananthan are writing a paper on ‘the green economy and water’, with a scheduled release date of February 2012.

For additional background and emerging analysis, please see:
NEWS: Big business backs water agenda at Rio+20
UPDATE: The Stockholm Water Week statement on Rio+20
UPDATE: Rio+20 and water