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World Water Day, March 22, 2010

Just finished an amazing World Water Day.

The day began with the news that a committee tasked with assessing Coca-Cola’s liability in the Plachimada case had recommended 48 million US Dollars in compensation for the community. This is clearly a victory after years of perseverance, I just wish Mylamma, the women who was such an inspiration in this struggle, had lived to see this day.

Still, this was a great way to begin the day. We moved on to see the Council of Canadians deliver 56,000 petitions to the world’s most intransigent government on recognition of water as a human right, Canada. These petitions demanded action on water as a human right and on implementation of a national water plan in Canada. The pressure is on this government and is being ramped up globally.

Not waiting for Canada to act, Maude Barlow, our very own former advisor to the President of the United Nations General Assembly, wrote a letter to the Uruguayan government outlining a proposal for an international water summit. The Uruguayan Minister of the Environment had already suggested willingness to work on this initiative with other key countries and with Maude’s support. The letter was hand-delivered by our wonderful Uruguayan comrades this afternoon in Montevideo and they will brief the minister next week, we look forward to this process moving forward.

We saw many other strong initiatives; from films against bottled water to virtual marches and sign-ons (including one on public-public partnerships sent to the EU Development Minister). There were undoubtedly a million initiatives we did not hear about, and many water warriors who did not even know this was World Water Day. For the billions without access to water and sanitation, everyday is World Water Day. These people do not need a special day set aside by the UN to fight for access to water, this is unfortunately a daily struggle and one that we all can win together.

Last weekend we saw 200,000 people in Rome marching against the terrible Ronchi Decree which pushes local governments to privatize their water systems. It was great to hear about the strength of this movement and how it is growing with the launch next month of a referendum to stop this move by the Berlusconi government.

As we see, many wonderful opportunities are presenting themselves…I sent a note around to the lists of the Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on Water and Sanitation reviewing the role of the private sector in the right to water. This is a chance to deal with the rising power of transnational corporations. Clearly we need to re-balance and constrain the enormous power wielded by these corporations over even the largest governments.

I will keep you updated on this process, but for now am enjoying the strong efforts around the world which were shared this World Water Day.

In solidarity,
Anil