208456 Commoditization and commercialization of water: Is it the new oil?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 11:30 AM

Gopal Sankaran, MD, DrPH, CHES , Department of Health, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, PA
About 1.1 billion people in the developing nations presently do not have access to a minimal amount of clean water (UN Human Development Report, 2006). By 2025, if current global water consumption continues, more than 3.0 billion of the world's 7.9 billion people will be living in areas where water is scarce. The report advocates strongly “making water a human right—and meaning it.” This paper focuses on how water in the past decades has been made into a profitable commodity and widely commercialized and the foreseeable impact of such actions on the pricing, availability and use of this essential resource across the world. The paper draws upon the extensive data available to consider both the supply and demand sides of the equation. An empirical analysis of the data reveals that, if current trends of commoditization and commercialization of water continue, increasing numbers of vulnerable people in the developing world would not be able to access this basic human need. This, in turn, would result in an inevitable delay in achieving the health and development goals of many developing nations. The paper highlights, through examples, how economic, cultural and political factors that impact the distribution and use of water have further worsened the disparities between and within nations. Finally, the paper using a human rights framework provides proven strategies for developing and instituting policies that effectively balance the basic human need for water and the profit motive behind its commoditization and commercialization.

Learning Objectives:
At the end of this presentation, participants will be able to: 1. Specify the global availability of water and changes in its availability over time. 2. Explain how commoditization and commercialization of water are adversely impacting vulnerable populations in the developing world. 3. Advocate for fair use policies to ensure water remains a public good and there is equity in its availability to all people.

Keywords: Water, Human Rights

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Over 25 years experience in global health as a teacher, trainer and researcher. Made over 75 presentations in scientific forums. Experience and expertise as a public health physician with work experience in both resource poor and resource rich settings. Co-edited a book, co-authored a book, and have published in numerous journals.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.