PPP won’t address water crisis, contrary to ADB claim

Water for the People Network | The experience of countries around the world that have implemented water privatization shows that public-private partnership (PPP) has even worsened the problem.

Contrary to the claim of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), allowing profit-oriented private corporations to take over the management and distribution of water resources will not address the water crisis. The experience of countries around the world that have implemented water privatization shows that public-private partnership (PPP) has even worsened the problem.

Advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) issued the statement as the ADB wraps up today its five-day conference “Water crisis and choices” in its Manila headquarters.

During the conference, the ADB warned that Asia will face a severe water crisis by 2030, with the shortfall in water supply reaching as much as 40 percent. To address the situation, the multilateral financial institution is drawing up a new framework for water operations that calls for efficiency improvement and greater PPPs.

According to WPN, it is ironic that in justifying its renewed push for water privatization the ADB cited the Philippines as the “best example so far in the region” in terms of PPP initiatives in the water sector. The ADB was referring to the privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997 that transferred to private concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad the task of delivering water to almost 14 million people in Metro Manila and nearby areas.

The WPN reminded the ADB that just a few months ago, almost half of Metro Manila suffered from water shortage and thousands of residents had to endure long queues and water rationing. While the authorities blamed the low water level at Angat Dam, which supplies 97% of domestic water needs of the metropolis, the group said that the impact would not have been as bad without the structural issues related to the MWSS privatization 13 years ago.

For instance, even prior to the water shortage, only 60% of 760,000 households in the service area of Maynilad have 24-hour water supply and more than half of its water allocation are wasted due to leaking pipes and pilferage. Manila Water, on the other hand, claims 99% coverage but this includes those serviced by a third party private contractor often in poor communities. These private companies promised universal access to water by 2001 and a 24/7 water supply.

The group warned that promoting more PPPs in the water sector will aggravate the deteriorating condition of the world’s water supply. Contrary to the aim of “water for all” trumpeted by the ADB, dwindling water resources are likely to be increasingly monopolized by the rich at the expense of poor families who cannot afford escalating user fees common in PPP projects.

Reiterating its call to stop the privatization and corporate takeover of water services and resources, the WPN said that the public sector is still in the better position to deal with the worsening problem of water services facing the world because of its inherent mandate to deliver public goods and services such as water. (end)

The Water for the People Network (WPN) is a nationwide multi-sectoral alliance of various groups campaigning for people’s control over their water resources. IBON is part of the network secretariat.

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