IN FRANCE, about 70 percent of water services are privatized. French corporations continue to vie for control of the global water supply. But in 2010, Paris, in a case of “remunicipalization,” exited contracts with Paris-based Veolia and Suez Environnement, the world’s two largest water service companies.
Veolia is also the largest waste-water corporation in the world. Subsidiary Veolia Water North America is the largest private operator of U.S. municipal water and waste-water systems and controls the water service of about 14 million people.
The city of Jakarta, Indonesia, was recently confronted with a clean-water crisis as supplies run dry and a leaky system loses about 40 percent of its water. The city, with 10.9 million people, decided to buy back control of its water system in June from Suez Environnement.
In the Philippines, there is mounting public opposition to the private companies that control Manila’s water systems. In July, the Water for All Refund Movement, a civil society group, asked the nation’s supreme court to nullify water privatization deals and to declare them “unconstitutional and immoral.” Since privatization in 1997, water rates have increased by amounts from 547 percent to 850 percent, while the private companies have seen ever-escalating profits.
Average water rates in Jakarta and Manila are among the highest of major cities in Asia.
In a world where 18 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day, high water prices pose a real threat to human health, and privatization has escalated that threat around the globe.