Thursday, November 20, 2008

007's latest battle against villainy highlights need of all for water

By Annegret Kapp


Geneva (ENI). James Bond is back and cinema's most famous spy in his latest movie is battling a villain trying to control strategic water resources in a developing country. Yet how realistic is the idea of a Mafia-style group gaining control over a nation's water supply?

"With water scarcity increasing and demand for water rising steadily in many countries around the world, control over water translates more and more into profit and power," says Maike Gorsboth, the coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, a Geneva-based international initiative of churches, Christian organizations and movements campaigning for people's access to water.

The British spy's latest adventure, "Quantum of Solace", is already showing in many of the world's cinemas and is set to arrive in U.S. movie theatres on 14 November, featuring Daniel Craig in his second appearance as James Bond.

In the film, Bond battles Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of the Quantum organisation posing as an environmentalist, who intends to stage a coup d'├ętat in a South American country, to take control of its water supply.

"Already today we are witnessing struggles over the control of water supply and resources," notes Gorsboth. "Companies are buying water rights and land in order to secure their access to water resources. Often they do not care much about the rights of communities or environmental consequences and deplete and pollute this precious resource."

The idea of the movie is not as far fetched as one might wish, says Gorsboth. However, while corruption does play a major role in the water sector, what is happening is often not illegal, she points out.

"Legal provisions ensuring public control and regulating private ownership and use of water resources are in too many cases lacking or insufficient," Gorsboth explains.

According to the Ecumenical Water Network, public and community control of water supply has diminished drastically in recent decades. Increasingly water is treated as a commodity subject to market conditions. Many cases can be cited, the network says, where privatisation of water resources has deprived the poor from access to water.

In the Bond movie, Gorsboth says, "The villain almost succeeds because he is working in secret and because he uses other people's greed and corruption."

Still, while the spy tackles the problem gun in hand, and with a "licence to kill", churches are taking a different kind of action to raise awareness and help educate people about the dangers of privatising a vital source of life.

"They speak up for the poor and most vulnerable and thus help them to defend their right to water against more powerful interests," says Gorsboth.

"Without adequate access to water, human dignity is harmed and development impossible," she says. "And those who suffer most from missing and unequal access to clean water are the poorest. Now, this is not simply an inevitable result of physical water scarcity. This is about political, social, and economic factors determining who gets water and who does not. That makes it an ethical concern, a matter of justice."

:: Ecumenical Water Network

:: Annegret Kapp is a Web editor with the World Council of Churches. This is an edited version of an interview carried by the WCC.

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