Public Values

Water privatization's tale of two cities

Tourist sewage, not promised drinking water, piped into Colombian town.

Taganga, Columbiaby Corporate Accountability International

Santa Marta is the pearl of Colombia's Caribbean coast, an expanse of white-sand beaches and crystal-azure water dotted with pastel flushed luggers. With golf courses and spas to boot, locals have adopted the slogan: "Santa Marta — the magic of having it all."

But just a short drive down a winding, dirt road, the residents of the village of Taganga are living with the reality of having very little. Instead of turning on the tap each morning, villagers set out at sunrise once a week to buy water jugs from street vendors.

They haul the water home on carts and mules. Though only minutes away from Santa Marta's swimming pools, there is no running water in Taganga. Whatever water residents can carry will have to last until the next delivery.

It is not supposed to be this way. Ten years ago, Metroagua — a subsidiary of the transnational corporation Suez — signed a contract to bring water to Taganga.

The Colombian government, strapped for cash, accepted a loan from the World Bank requiring that the government contract a private corporation to manage its water systems. Metroagua got the contract for Taganga and Santa Marta.

Ten years later, Metroagua has yet to install pipes or taps to bring running water to Taganga. It has however, built a new sanitation system for Santa Marta that pumps the tourist town's waste into the bay off Taganga's shore; a bay where fishermen place their nets and traps. . .

Privatization vs. Public Values Frame
  Private sector will turn a profit / Public ownership serves larger good

Links and sources
  Water Privatization's Tale of Two Cities, by Corporate Accountability International, October 15, 2008

Posted: October 15, 2008

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