Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Yesterday was my birthday – celebrated with (a) a couple of hours pleasant browsing in the downtown Carturesti bookshop I’ve blogged about before (where I picked up some CDs and volume 7 of the collected works of my favourite central European poet – Marin Sorescu) and (b) having a late lunch with Daniela at a new place just round the corner from the flat.
The heat on the plains and overdeveloped seasides here in Romania and Bulgaria got me thinking about water scarcity and policy (35 is forecast for today). I come across a reference to Fred Pearce’s When the Rivers run dry and know that there is currently a debate in Scotland about the privatisation of water. Scotland has so far steadfastly resisted this policy to which England (and much of central Europe) fell prey in the 1990s. In the late 1980s I was fortunate enough to be part of a small European network led by Riccardo Petrella – then an EC official but who has since become an anti-globalisation activist. I remember him raising the subject of water with me 20 years ago – and in 2006 he apparently published a book about the dangers of the commodification of water. If ever there was an example of a resource which must remain a public utility, this is it. Instead, bodies like the World Bank and WTB have bypassed national parliaments and conspired to force countries to privatise water – with devastating results.
An interesting resource on this subject can be found on a website I found immediately I used google search on water privatisation (as distinct from yahoo whose early pages are very poor on the subject. The site is an impressive personal endeavour on a range of issues - global issues
The Scottish Government should not just be issuing reassuring noises about keeping the resource in public hands – but leading a global campaign for a change to WTB rules and the removal of water from global commercial companies. On a more personal note, the local municipality at last installed a water meter in the mountain house a month ago and have built an additional pump facility in the village - it will be interesting to see how that affects the water supply which was reduced to a trickle last summer because of the scale of building nearby (but not in our village). One of my other reads at the Black Sea was Garton Ash's latest collection of essays - one of which rang bells with me. One of the pieces was on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. He disputed the common perception (about class influences on the slow reaction time) - and argued instead that its main lesson was how quickly our veneer of civilisation slips when basic facilities are removed.
One of the appalling things for me in my visit to Beijing was the massive scale of the construction which was continuing there and in cities generally - and the evil way municipal officials were dispossessing people of their property to join in the rush to richness (collective and personal). Der Spiegel carries today stories both about this - and a warning that the bubble in the Chinese property market is about to burst (in Beijing people are borrowing 20 times their income to buy)
An interesting discussion is also underway in Britain about inequality . I'll come back to that soon.