Barlow warns of water crisis

It could have been a scene synopses for a post-apocalyptic science-fiction movie.

  • May. 23, 2011 8:00 p.m.

It could have been a scene synopses for a post-apocalyptic science-fiction movie.

The film opens in a dire, dusty shanty-town full of burning tires and garbage, kids with no shoes, rats in the gutter and no running water anywhere for as far as the eye can see.

The camera pans to see juxtaposed in the middle of such incredible poverty, a state-of-the-art water dispenser where one need only place a chip-encrypted card into the shiny machine and crisp clean water pours out, providing one has paid to have the card charged up.

The vast majority of the villagers, however, cannot afford to do so and so they are forced to walk to the river, past the cholera warning signs and fetch their water from the polluted tributary risking disease and death.

Of course, the scene that author, activist and national chairperson of the Council of Canadians Maude Barlow described Thursday evening to over 300 people at the Shatford Centre was not fiction, but the reality privatization of water has brought to Orange Farm, a township located about 45 kilometres out of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The keynote speaker at the Meadowlark Festival’s The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, Barlow said the planet is running out of accessible clean water.

“The human species has mismanaged, polluted and most importantly diverted water from where we can access it to where we cannot,” said Barlow.

“We are over extracting our rivers — in many cases to death, as today most major rivers in the world don’t reach the ocean. We are over pumping groundwater so fast with technology that we didn’t have 50 years ago that there are places in the world where they are coming to the bottom of the water table.”

Barlow said a recent study conducted by Coca-Cola and some other large beverage companies, through the World Bank, concluded that by 2030 the demand in the world for water will outstrip supply by 40 per cent.

But that is in 2030. The lack of access to water, she said, is the greatest killer of children in the world today.

The problem is aggravated by poverty.

“Rich countries and rich hedge-funds are coming in and buying up water rights or actual physical water in places like Chile or Africa,” reported Barlow.

But it is not just a Third World problem, she stressed.

“In Detroit, Michigan they have officially cut the water to about 45,000 residences,” Barlow said. “It is mostly African-Americans, older people and single mothers. And what is happening is that once the water is shut off, social services come in and take their children away.”

In Australia, the government started allowing water trading in 1993, converting water licences to water rights. Soon, Barlow said, big companies were buying up the little companies and small farms.

“The price of water shot up from two dollars a mega-litre to $2,400 a mega-litre,” Barlow said to gasps.

And despite all the rain, Barlow warned, it could happen here in Canada too, as water is already on the market through: privatization of water and wastewater systems; bottled water; and through water trading in Alberta — a practice Barlow said British Columbians should pressure their government to not allow.

“There are still concerns that if any province starts to export water commercially, under the terms of NAFTA, water will become a commercial good,” said Barlow, noting that both Liberal and Conservative federal governments have refused to recognize the right to water and sanitation as a basic human right.

Asserting that at 41 years old Canada’s water act is “outdated,” Barlow said Canada needs to develop a 50-year water plan while restoring and protecting rivers and watersheds.

“Water must be a common and a public trust,” she concluded. “We need water for life and there is no substitute. No one should be able to appropriate water for personal profit while others are going without.

“Local water systems belong to the people who live and have their livelihoods around them …  We need to save the world’s water and make sure it is distributed fairly and equitably.”

city@pentictonwesternnews.com

 

Just Posted

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Suspected Naramata homicide victim identified by police

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

(File photo)
Reports of aggressive deer in Penticton prompt warning from city

Expect female deer to be more aggressive over the next two months

(File photo)
Mobile drop-in vaccination clinic coming to Oliver

All those in the Oliver area who have not yet received their first dose are eligible for the vaccine

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Most Read