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Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit Paperback – Nov 2001


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  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Between the Lines (Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1896357512
  • ISBN-13: 978-1896357515
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,198,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The "colour line" defined American society in the 20th century. Will the same be true for the 21st? This work discusses the state of Black America today and the prospects for achieving full civil rights and equality. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is intelligently written and certainly worthy of a read. The author explains clearly what is going on with water supplies, particularly in India. She challenges the corporate greed going on in the world. Lets us know how the laws on water really work and reflects ancient values that protected us and our environment against take over by what I can only term as the gredy. Our planet is being hijacked and made unfit for biological inhabitation by a small group of greedy people who use spin, lies and deceit to hood wink us all. It reminds me of some ancient wisdom by the native american. How can any one person own the natural resources of the world, such as the air, the water the land. We are the keepers, and have a duty to protect and utilise with respect to our environment and others who share these precious and life giving things. She is a revolution in her own right. Power to the people. Thank you Vandana sharing your knowledge and for challanging this cabal.
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Amazon.com: 19 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Articulate spokesperson for the people 9 May 2002
By Malvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Vandana Shiva's concise, intelligent and well-written book Water Wars examines the political economy of water, a scarce resouce that is fast increasing in value all over the world.
Among many themes explored in the book, the author effectively contrasts two markedly different approaches to water stewardship: centralized vs. decentralized management systems. Centralized systems are associated with private for-profit capitalism whereas decentralized systems are typically managed by local community co-ops.
Shiva draws from her extensive knowledge of her native India to describe how centralized controls imposed during the colonial and post-colonial eras have largely failed to meet the needs of the people and the environment. She discusses how dams built with World Bank and other foreign dollars merely reallocated water resources at an enormous cost to the environment and to the many poor people displaced from their ancestral homes. The author also points out that modern pumps installed in the name of progress have unfortunately succeeded in withdrawing water at an unsustainable rate, thereby causing thousands of wells to run dry and consequently causing suffering for many.
On the other hand, Shiva relates cases where villagers have returned to native systems of water management that have succeeded in resuscitating wells, streams and rivers that had previously dried up. These projects are managed democratically by the villagers themselves with an eye towards sustainability and social justice (everyone gets their fair share of water but no one gets more water than necessary).
Shiva also gave the book a spiritual dimension. She cites both ancient and contemporary sources to prove that water holds special meaning to people the world over for its unique life-giving properties. The implication is that it is perhaps immoral to regard water as merely the latest market opportunity. Clearly, respect for the natural environment and the needs of other people requires us to do better.
Water Wars is a great book for anyone who cares to learn more about water management issues and democracy.
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Is Water worth fighting for? 7 Aug 2002
By Friederike Knabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
With the debate around water scarcity expanding across the globe, Vandana Shiva's Water Wars is an important book to read. With it, she has produced another collection of thought-provoking and well-researched essays. A physicist turned environmental activist, Shiva has a passion for the "essence of life". Water, she argues, is intrinsically different from other resources and products and can NOT be treated simply as a commodity: without water people and the environment cannot survive. To subject water to commercial restrictions and to control its availability to people and communities is unacceptable.
Vandana Shiva discusses the failures and successes of diverse water management systems, past and present. She builds her case by reviewing traditional water systems and evaluating the impact of modern dam building. She examines the recent and current conflicts around water and access controls between countries and peoples. Contrary to others who claim that water scarcity will lead to conflicts in the future, Shiva brings evidence that water wars are already with us and are happening all over the world. She is furthermore convinced, based on her research, that conflicts will become increasingly violent as fresh water resources dwindle.
Destruction of fragile ecosystems and the displacement of people and communities have resulted from the construction of the huge dams, so popular in the sixties to the eighties. She describes the impacts of some of the best-known big dams in India, the United States, Mexico, and China. Using her in-depth knowledge of the Indian Subcontinent she strengthens her arguments with many examples from that region. But she has also studied the conflicts surrounding the Rio Grande rerouting and the big Hoover Dam that has channeled huge amounts of water from Texas and other crop growing regions to satisfy the ever-increasing water hunger of California.
For some readers, Vandana Shiva's focus on Indian examples of water system mismanagement may seem a bit tedious. However, it is worth persisting as there are important lessons to be learned from her examples, in particular, as numerous successful projects have also emerged from India. The successful traditional and present-day initiatives, which she cites, are primarily based on locally managed and community controlled water systems. Experience in many developing countries confirm her conclusions that water is most valued and best preserved for people and environment when managed at the community level with user participation. The chapter 'Food and Water' is a reminder and warning of the fragility of our food production systems.
Privatization of water resources and systems is a major concern to many and Vandana Shiva adds her strong voice. The World Bank estimated the potential water market at $1trillion. Shiva cites examples where the privatization of water has resulted in profits for a minority while increasing the economic burden on the poor. She warns of the consequences if water scarcity develops into a marketing opportunity for private business and transnational corporations.
Vandana Shiva's focus on ethics does not come as a surprise to the reader. Her 'Principles of Water Democracy' take a strong stand for water rights in the current debate whether water is a "human need" or a "human right". She ends with a reminder that water sources have been sacred throughout history. If we were to understand 'value' without its monetary connotation, usually implicit these days, we could treasure natural resources like water and biodiversity without a price tag - as major elements of the global common. This well-researched and well-written book should be read, whatever side of the current debate the reader may be.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Earthy Wisdom About Water 6 Oct 2004
By Tracy McLellan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Water rights and access to water are a commons. They inherently belong to all people collectively, from which to benefit and to be responsible for as stewards. Including being a guide to participating in popular resistance, this is a history of how the principle of water as a commons has evolved as part and parcel of the evolutionary rise of the human species. Also catalogued is the very recent advent of the concept of water as a privatized commodity.

Although Shiva doesn't say it in so many words, the book often reads as a direct indictment of the United States because many of the problems she enumerates trace back directly to the fossil fuel economy. The US is the most egregious and careless contributor to the degradation of the environment. Although the US stands to experience a large part of the devastation global warming is already wreaking, perhaps the loss of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas to a potential 2 foot rise in sea levels, many poor and island nations will bear the disproportionate brunt of global warming's effects.

This book might easily be perceived as a treatise in Luddism. Shiva says almost every so-called advance in water management, as for example diverting and draining rivers, which is necessarily a move to centralize and privatize water management, results in catastrophic social and ecological consequences - especially natural disasters such as floods, supercyclones, and droughts. When water is managed locally and collectively by the indigenous as a commons, its use is equitable, ecologically sound, and sustainable - words of wisdom from mouth of justice. When water is treated as a commodity, and corporatized the unforeseen consequences, which are quite serious, include pollution and climate change.

Shiva documents many natural and man-made disasters that have resulted from this practical and ideological shift in water management. She draws a direct causal relationship between technological application in water management and ecological disruption and social conflict. The worst of these, a supercyclone that devastated the state of Orissa in India in 1999, "damaged 1.83 million houses and 1.8 million acres of paddy crops in 12 coastal districts. Eighty percent of the coconut trees were uprooted or broken in half, and all the banana and papaya plantations were wiped out. More than 300,000 cattle perished, more than 1,500 fisherman and fisherwomen lost their entire source of livelihood...local workers estimate the (human) toll to be about 20,000."

Shiva is well-studied in water management and its history. She draws from a rich array of sources, many obscure but important; a large number are cites of her own past voluminous work. Her arguments are intuitive more than deductive. Once you accept her premise of water resources as a commons, and she makes the argument gently, but unrelentingly, as if it is a self-evident truth, the rest of her conclusions unfold cogently, compellingly, and of their own accord.

The WTO and World Bank involvement in water management are ominous signs of water's commodification, self-destructive and suicidal, teaches Shiva. Small groups resisting these developments have won several victories. Arundhati Roy among other prominent Indians has enjoined the struggle against the Narmada Dam project, a mammoth project of corporatization in India.

Projects like Narmada, and there are many of them, are done under the rubric of capitalism and "free trade." These last two terms understood in practice, as should be obvious by now, as the socialization of risks and costs and the privatization of profits for the rich, and fiscal discipline and restraint for the poor. This corporate welfare takes the form of subsidies, give-aways, tax breaks, and displacement of the indigenous.

This is a very focused study of water rights, impressively researched and well-documented. Shiva presents the facts and lets you uncover the truth for yourself, like wiping a mirror clear of dust.

The historical shift of water as a commons to water as a commodity is almost the same as the history of colonialism. Shiva traces a richly researched history of British colonization of India synonymous there with this shift in water management. Her writing is sometimes dry but rich in fact and research. In wading deep into the minutiae of water management's history, and the consequences of its commodification, Shiva shows that much of the supposed progress in the administration and management of water rights have really been retrograde movements from policies and practicalities of fairness and equitability. She also warns ominously that the 21st Century will see wars and conflicts over this resource in much the same way the 20th did over oil.

The clash of water as a commons versus its degradation into a commodity was perhaps best illustrated in Cochambamba, Bolivia in 1999. In response to the sell off of a municipal resource to a foreign corporation, a coalition of militant peasant groups formed the Coalition in Defense of Water and Life. It organized to address skyrocketing water bills and poor service. Of all corporations, Bechtel, a huge military contractor to the Pentagon, "bought" water rights in Cochambamba. It wasn't without several serious skirmishes that the peasant groups prevailed and reasserted their sovereignty over water. Bechtel exited Bolivia, and the United States government took up its cause, suing Bolivia on behalf of Bechtel in the World Trade Court. That case is still pending.

Shiva makes an important contribution. As impressive as the book itself is the exposure to an activist with a wide knowledge and a rich oeuvre. She wraps up her study with a look at the sacredness of water in India. The Ganges River is traditionally one of the holiest sites in India. The multinational corporations would prefer to see this resource as an asset on their ledgers. Shiva never mentions specifically what she is doing activist-wise to join the struggle. But it's obvious from her energy and devotion to the issue that she is very actively involved. She makes it clear she is for justice for the great masses of people before the interests of those who would commodify water.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Don't take water for granted! 11 Mar 2004
By C. Imbert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Water is an essential part of life most Americans take for granted. It's easy to dismiss water quality or availability issues, but they affect everyone.
Although Shiva puts a decidedly anti-corporation spin on her anecdotes, she raises many interesting points and asks some tough questions. Everyone should be concerned with environmental quality, and this book is a good start.
The book isn't merely about environmentalism, however. It also covers the economic, political, and financial impact of control over water. Those who control water, control the world!
The book is well-written and intriguing. Shiva's environmental science is solid, but described in a way laymen can understand.
43 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Much potential, but lost in hurried and cursory analysis 20 Feb 2003
By Saleem Ali - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The term "water wars" has gained popular currency ever since Joyce Starr wrote an article by this title in Foreign Policy almost 12 years ago regarding hydropolitics in the Middle East. The alliterative ring of the phrase has endured many empirical studies that dispute its relevance, including some by erstwhile proponents of environmental determinism such as Thomas Homer-Dixon. Such is the allure of the term that only last year (2002) two books of this title were authored (the other one by the American journalist Diane Raines Ward).
Vandana Shiva is a renowned Indian environmentalist who is known for her eclectic interests. However, in the last few years she has focused her indignation for the world's problems on private capital. Thus her eclecticism has reached a rather reductionist end, which unfortunately leads her popular writings to shed more heat than light. In "Water Wars," Shiva weaves together anecdotes (largely from India) and secondary references to present yet another scathing indictment of multinational corporations and international development institutions.
After presenting a brief history of water property rights, which she largely dismisses as "cowboy economics," Shiva goes on to describe instances of conflicts pertaining to water in four areas: i) climate change, ii) dams, iii) potable water supply and iv) irrigation. In all these cases, she makes connections -- some more tenuous than others -- to multinational corporations and international development institutions. In the last two chapters, she prescribes atavistic solutions predicated on traditional practices, such as the Bihari irrigation system of ahars and pynes. The book concludes with theological and transcendental references to the sacred spirit of water and an appendix enlisting a 108 names of the Ganges River.
Overall, Shiva's sincerity of purpose shines through the text, but preconceived notions and normative assertions occlude any rigorous analysis. Regrettably, Shiva appears to have abandoned her methodological roots as an academic physicist. Instead of laying out all the evidence and the arguments in favor and against particular schemes, she chooses to harp on negative cases and offer broad generalizations, which often limit the credibility of her argument. While the book serves a useful purpose of sounding the alarm about world water issues, it does not go the next measure to provide a coherent and constructive vision for change.
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