Water warriors worldwide putting water back in people's hands

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 | News and analysis
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A close up of a gentle wave
Around the world, people are waking up to the threat of privatised water and taking it back from the corporations to be recognised as a human right, not a privilege.

In the UK, an overwhelming 80 percent of people now want British water back in public hands, too. 

There has been a push to privatise water over recent decades. While big business considers it theirs to waste through intense mining and corporate agribusiness, people are left with soaring bills and neglected infrastructure. In the UK, rip-off water bills will help force many people into choosing between eating or heating their homes this winter. In the global South, privatisation has cut millions of people off from their own water supply and has cost countless lives.  

But people are fighting back – and winning. 

France was once the poster child of water privatisation but is now returning to public ownership. In Ireland, the right to water is a national issue, with civil society opposition mounting and women's groups taking direct action against the installation of water meters. In Jakarta this month, the Indonesian Supreme Court ended water privatisation after years of campaigning over water access being denied to the city's poor. Victories have also been won in Mali, Tanzania, Bolivia, Argentina, Malaysia, India, Kazakhstan, the USA, Spain, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Sweden and Scotland. 

War on Want works with water warriors in Latin America such as the Landless Workers Movement (MST). MST is one of the strongest social movements in Brasil with over 1.5 million members organising landless people and impoverished farmers to realise defend their human rights and access to land and water. 

We also work with Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in places like La Guajira, Colombia. There, people are resisitng the extraction of coal from their lands by UK-listed companies Glencore, BHP Billiton and AngloAmerican. Central to their struggle is the fight for water, and again its privatisation. 

Seb Munoz, senior international programmes director for Latin America, says: "War on Want works with Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in La Guajira, Colombia who have been resisitng the extraction of coal from their lands by UK-listed companies Glencore, BHP Billiton and AngloAmerican. Central to their struggle is the fight for water and again its privatisation.

La Guajira is a water scarce region, hit hard by consecutive droughts. Yet the company uses 17 million litres of water a day to clean the coal they extract and has diverted numerous precious water sources to meet their water needs. The result is the tragic, un-thinkable deaths of up to 5,000 indigenous children from malnutrition and lack of access to drinking water. 

For over 20 years, War on Want partner, the Inter-institutional Platform of Celendín in northern Peru, has had to resist against the world’s largest open-cast gold mine: Yanacocha Mine and its expansion, the notorious Conga project. A single gold mine can use between 1 and 3 million litres of water every hour. Yanacocha uses twice the amount of water in one year as the whole population of the province of Cajamarca, where the mine is located.

Central to this community struggle is the defence of 4 of the 20 lakes that make up an interconnected web of water systems that provide water to over 40,000 people, for their livelihoods and local agricultural economies. The fight for water is the fight for life, they are the guardians of the lakes."

For a global map of water struggles and victories, check out the Water Remunicipalisation Tracker.