Use of and access to water is theme of debate at the World Social Forum

Debate about access to water, countering the development model which causes water stress and discussing national sovereignty alternatives were the goals of the Round Table Dialogue “Countering water grabbing by (export) agriculture – For Peoples’ Right to Water and Food!”, during the 2018 World Social Forum.

The round table dialogue took place on Wednesday 14 March, was mediated by Rafael Oliveira from KOINONIA and involved participatory debate with Andrea Müller-Frank, representing the agency Bread for the World; Ramesh Sharma from Ekta Parishad, a social movement involved in local communities in 14 Indian states; Luis Muchanga from the Mozambique National Union of Peasants (União Nacional de Camponeses de Moçambique: UNAC); Valquíria Lima from the Semi-Arid Coalition (Articulação Semiárido Brasileiro: ASA), and Moisés Borges from the Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens: MAB).

Andrea Müller-Frank began the debate revealing alarming data reflecting the need to preserve water: “According to the UN, 70% of all the water available in the world is being used for irrigation, causing water stress”.  This theme has been prioritized on the international agenda in relation to policies for the rational use of this natural resource: “Industrialized countries must observe their production and consumption, and reduce consumption in countries with less water.  We can say that we are part of the global crisis and for this reason we have invited people from other parts of the world”.

Discussing the theme of the use of this good for export agriculture, Ramesh Sharma and Luis Muchanga shared experiences from their countries.  Sharma noted that India ranks first in exporting water through cotton and sugarcane monoculture: “Through these products we export virtual water, using a great deal of subterranean water and lowering the water table.”  Muchanga noted that eucalyptus and banana production are the main causes of the water crisis in Mozambique.  “Despite the water richness and biodiversity in our country, the challenge is to discuss the right to food sovereignty and to question the agricultural model of production imposed on us.

Valquíria Lima presented the experience of the ASA, informing the audience that the coalition initially began by defending coexistence in the Semi-Arid Region for the defence of the right to water: “Although we have positive and important experiences of guaranteeing the right to access to water during great droughts, we are also dealing with models that prejudice the ability of these families to remain on their lands.” She confirmed that today the ASA mainly works on the issue of eucalyptus monoculture and, more recently, of mining.  She finished: “It is important to continue mobilizing, organizing civil society, forging relationships with a range of partners in the fight for water, to gain more ground and counter the development policy which has intensified the water crisis in Brazil and in the Semi-Arid Region.”

Moisés Borges addressed the issue of how multinationals grab water from the rivers, drying up water sources and suppressing the vegetation in Correntina, a municipality located in the west of Bahia.  “Correntina and other cities in the region are experiencing conflicts in disputes for water.” He reported that the conflict which gained greatest visibility was the criminalization of the movements: “The Igarashi company has destroyed the Cerrado and begun to consume more than the entire population of the city. We made denouncements and wrote reports with partners to try and change the situation.  But, given omissions by the State Government, the population became outraged.  This outrage was legitimate indignation.  And the government response was abuses by the Military Police”.

For Moisés, the political situation of the Coup is directly linked to the interests of capital and exploitation by large companies and enterprises.  He reports that, “The rural militias never stopped.  They export virtual water, water sent through food and a lot of blood”.  The MAB representative asserted that the situation in Correntina has encouraged the movement: “If it weren’t for pressure, things would be worse. Despite the risks, we carry on, with force and audacity.  We are going to Brasilia, alongside other organizations, we will go to FAMA”.

The Round Table Dialogue was an initiative of the Process of International Networking and Dialogue (Processo de Articulação e Diálogo Internacional: PAD); CESE; the Coalition for Human  Rights Monitoring in Brazil; the National Human Rights Movement (Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos: MNDH) and the Ecumenical Forum of Brazil (Fórum Ecumênico: FEBRASIL).



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