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Himanshu Thakkar

By Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke
Leftword, New Delhi, 2003, pp. xviii 278, Rs. 195.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 2 February 2005

There is little doubt that the situation with regard to access to clean water is getting worse by the day. Many reasons are responsible for this turn of events. The authors of Blue Gold, as the subtitle The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water says, try to explain one of the less understood aspects of the situation. That indeed is a unique strength of this book.   The book explains the role of the various players like the tiers of water and cola corporate, the governments, the multilateral agencies like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Finance Corporation, the regional development banks, the World Trade Organi-sation and others. This section in chapters 4 to 6 is the most significant contribution of this book. These chapters explain the evolution, ethics and economy of the largest private water corporate like the Suez and Vivendi and also of the second and third tier of the private water companies. The multilateral agencies have been acting hand in glove with these companies in taking over of the world’s water. The chapters also explain the politics of what some call the unholy trinity of the international water bodies like the Global Water Partnership, the World Water Council and the World Water Commission.   In the next four chapters the book goes on to narrate how civil society organizations and communities around the world have been fighting against these agencies to retain control of the sources of water that the people depend on. While there is no doubt that these instances give a lot of hope and most of them are indeed very valiant, the situation is possibly less optimistic than what the authors paint in the last four chap-ters of the book. Indeed, there are many other recent instances where people all over the world have been engaged in attempts to sustain their access to their local water sources and in the process fight the entry of corporate agencies back-ed by governments and multilateral organizations.   Indeed one of the latest successful incidents happened in Uruguay when in a national referendum on Oct 31, 2004, more than 60 percent came out in favour of introducing a constitutional clause stating that “water is a natural resource essential to life” and that access to piped water and sanitation services are “fundamental human rights”. The constitutional amendment “Secures the protection and sovereignty of this natural resource against attacks from transnational ...

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