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Government Wants to Control the Water; The new "Oil"

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Govt needs to tackle water corruption

By Kellie Tranter, lawyer and writer

Posted Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:09pm AEST
Updated Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:12pm AEST
Water is a necessity, not a luxury.

Water is a necessity, not a luxury. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

In my recent article "Will water corruption trump water security?" I refered to Transparency International's Global Corruption Report 2008: Corruption in the Water Sector (GCR) because Australia received an "honourable" mention. The GCR was "the first of its kind to explore the impact and scope of corruption in different segments of the water sector".

I also urged the Government not only to release immediately the National Land and Water Resources Audit Final Report: 2002-2008 to see how the nation is really faring, but also to "kick its army of salaried officialdom into action to examine firstly, the potential for and consequences of water (and wastewater) corruption; secondly, how government's ability to provide water security notwithstanding water scarcity will be hindered if the management and control of water is in the hands of global marketeers (like investment firms, banks, private-equity firms, hedge funds, pension funds, technology corporations and sovereign wealth funds) and, last but not least, the extent to which water corruption, privatisation and state capture has already occurred".

Since then - during last week alone - we heard about the "bush exodus"; questions being raised about South Australia's water security for next year; the Murray inflows being at record lows; experts raising sustainability concerns over industrial use of 18,000-year-old groundwater on New South Wales' central coast; and an environmental campaigner attempting to highlight to the NSW Government the competing interests between the granting of yet another mining licence and the Murrumbidgee catchment system. These concerns no doubt would resonate with those concerned citizens who are aware that the 2008 update of The Audit Office of New South Wales's 2003 Protecting our rivers audit seems to confirm that there are currently no "comprehensive arrangements in place or operating for monitoring water quality in our rivers, so that the NSW Government is hardly in a position to openly assure the public that industries operating near NSW river systems, as well as more remote 'diffuse source' potential polluters, comply fully with their licence requirements and their environmental management responsibilities".

On top of that, one thing you may not have heard about is the 5th World Water Forum, held recently in Istanbul, where it was publicly acknowledged for the first time that corruption in the water sector is an issue.* I am reliably informed that Australia's Dr James Horne, Deputy Secretary, Department of the Environment and Water Resources, was in attendance, so the Australian Government undoubtedly would have a copy of the 5th World Water Forum Istanbul Ministerial Statement dated 22 March 2009 which includes objectives to:

    * ...improve at the national level the governance of the water sector...prevent corruption and increase integrity in implementing water-related policies, plans and practices; ensure transparency in decision making processes; and strengthen public participation from all water stakeholders ...
    * scientific research, education, development and adoption of new technologies and broadening of technical choices in the field of water...
    * ...improve water demand management, productivity and efficiency of water use for agriculture ...
    * country-led development projects in different sectors related to water, especially with regard to energy and food security and poverty eradication...
    * ...strengthen the prevention of pollution from all sectors in surface and groundwater, appropriately applying the polluter pays principle, while further developing and implementing wastewater collection, treatment and reuse...

And the list goes on.

As I said in my earlier article it is our Government's role to calculate and make provision for raising the public capital required for water research and technology and the replacement and creation of water infrastructure; if it fails to do that you can bet that the water investment opportunities for the marketeers will come thick and fast as the financial crisis deepens. Could it be that Senator Nick Minchin hit the nail on the head last week when he said, commenting on the government's proposed $43 billion broadband network, "... now we've got a $43 billion plan with no business case attached to it; no evidence that people actually want 100 megabits per second of download speed, that there'll be a demand for this service to warrant a $43 billion investment. And as I say, there are any other number of infrastructure priorities in this country. As I say, here in Adelaide, we'd love it if we could get reliable water supplies, which we can't get."

Water is a necessity, not a luxury. Instead of propping up ailing share and property prices and probably doomed financial institutions, what about our superannuation fund managers use our compulsory savings to buy water infrastructure bonds our Government could issue to finance the necessary infrastructure? I'd be much happier to see my superannuation funds there, doing something constructive for our country, than where they are now.

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer, writer and immediate past chairperson of the standing committee on legislation for BPW International. Since establishing her own legal practice seven years ago she has dedicated much of her time to promoting social, environmental and political responsibility.

* Editor's note: Since the publication of this article, Ms Tranter has submitted the following clarification:

    My Opinion piece 'Govt needs to tackle water corruption' posted Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:09pm AEST refers to the '5th World Water Forum, held recently in Istanbul, where it was publicly acknowledged for the first time that corruption in the water sector is an issue'.

    In fact the first prominent public discussion of the issue of corruption in the water sector, as far as I'm aware, was during the Stockholm Water Week in 2007 (see the report).

    In that year also the Water Integrity Network was established and launched its new website to fight corruption in the water sector.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

How can one live without water?


North India's groundwater use raising sea levels by 5%

5 Oct 2009, 0148 hrs IST, Amit Bhattacharya, TNN

NEW DELHI: The amount of groundwater pumped out by Delhiites and others across northern India is highest in the world and is contributing as much
as 5% to the total rise in sea levels.

A new study using satellite data has found that the region — a swathe of over 2,000km from west Pakistan to Bangladesh along north India — extracts a mindboggling 54 trillion litres from the ground every year, a figure that's likely to cause serious concern over the future of water availability.

The study, conducted by Virendra Mani Tiwari from National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, along with scientists from University of Colorado, US, found that the average depletion of groundwater level in the Indian part of the region was an alarming 10cm a year.

"We found the region of maximum groundwater loss centred around Delhi and included Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and west Uttar Pradesh," Tiwari told TOI. The study was published on September 17, 2009 in the prestigious US-based Geophysical Research Letter.

The research for the first time puts hard numbers to the water loss due to groundwater extraction in the region that’s home to around 10% of humanity. And the scenario is scary. The study found that the net loss of ground water was around 25 trillion litres a year.

The water that is pumped out eventually reaches the sea through rainfall or runoff from the land. ‘‘We found that the 54 trillion litres that’s extracted from the ground in this region leads to a sea-level rise of 0.16mm. That’s roughly equivalent to the contribution to sea level rise from melting Alaskan glaciers which is around 5%. This is also the largest rate of groundwater loss in any comparable-sized region on Earth,’’ Tiwari said.

The study combined data from GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) satellite with hydrological models from 2002 to 2008 to reach their conclusions. They used gravitational field changes detected by GRACE, corresponding to gain or loss of mass, to compute the groundwater levels. The satellite is sensitive to water level changes of up to 1cm.

Tiwari pointed out that high level of groundwater depletion should also be seen in the context of climate change models which predict increase in extreme weather event in the region. ‘‘Extreme weather events like heavy spells of rain do not recharge groundwater level. This means the region is likely to witness acute shortage of water in the foreseeable future,’’ he said.

Interestingly, the study found significantly less groundwater exploitation in south India. It says, ‘‘The trends are considerably smaller than the negative trends in the north, and could be due to a combination of increased reservoir impoundment, mis-modelled naturally varying storage and (along the southeast coast) tectonic signals related to the Dec 26, 2004 Sumatran earthquake.’’


If an individual did this it would be considered stalking!

Melbourne Water apologises for spying on pipeline protest farmer
Melissa Fyfe
August 24, 2011

Yea farmer Jan Beer. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

MELBOURNE Water has conceded it collected ''a large amount'' of personal information about one of its most vocal critics and will make a public apology for causing her distress.

A year-long legal battle ended yesterday when the water authority agreed to publish an apology to 63-year-old Yea farmer Jan Beer, a lead campaigner against the north-south pipeline. The apology will be published on its website and in two regional Victorian newspapers next month.

The apology says in part: ''Melbourne Water acknowledges that the collection of her personal information has caused Mrs Beer to feel that she was being continually monitored and to feel that her privacy had been invaded. Melbourne Water apologises to Mrs Beer for any distress experienced by her in relation to its collection of her personal information.''

The Sunday Age last year revealed Melbourne Water had spied on, filmed and photographed Mrs Beer, as well as tailed her while driving. Her activities were tracked, noted and shared with police over two years. The information came to light after Melbourne Water released 88 documents to Mrs Beer under freedom of information laws.

The information collected included notes on Mrs Beer's protest activities and her movements away from pipeline sites, such as a talk she gave to students at a local wetland.

Mrs Beer, who ran unsuccessfully as an independent for the seat of Seymour in the state election, was pleased yesterday with the outcome in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. ''We've pursued them for a year through VCAT without giving up because I felt I was in the right all along,'' Mrs Beer said. ''I am really pleased.''



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