Privitization of water


In 1999, the World Bank recommended privatization of the municipal water supply company of Cochabamba, Bolivia, through a concession to International Water, a subsidiary of Bechtel. The Drinking Water and Sanitation Law was passed, ending government subsidies and allowing privatization. Cochabamba is in a semi-desert region where water is scarce and precious. The minimum wage was less than US $100 a month. Household water bills reached $20 a month, nearly the cost of feeding a family of five for two weeks. A citizens' alliance called La Coodination de efensa del Agua y de la Vida (The Coalition in Defence of Water and Life) shut down the city for four days through mass mobilization. Within a month, millions of Bolivians marched to Cochabamba, held a general strike, and stopped all transportation. The Cochabamba Declaration called for the protection of universal water rights. The government promised to reverse the price rise but never did. In February 2000, La Coordinadora organized a peaceful march demanding repeal of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Law, annulment of ordinances allowing privatization, termination of the water contract and the participation of citizens in drafting a water resource law. Coordinadora's fundamental critique was directed at the negation of water as a community property. Protesters used slogans like 'Water is God's Gift and Not A Merchandise' and 'Water is Life'. Activists were arrested, protesters killed and the media censored by the government, but finally, in April 2000, the government backed down and Bechtel left Bolivia. The water company Servicio Municipal del Agua Potable Alcantarillado (SEMAPA) and its debts were handed over to the workers and the people. In the summer of 2000, La Coordinadora organized public hearings to establish democratic planning and management. Bechtel has sued Bolivia.

Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST