Time to act against corruption in the water sector [Archives:2008/1169/Viewpoint]

July 3 2008

Nadia Al-Saqqaf
Time to act against corruption in the water sector

Transparency International's Global Corruption Report 2008 just released indicated that many of the critical water problems in the developing world are caused by bad management and corruption more than an issue of a natural resource.

Once again, it is not God punishing us; it is we punishing ourselves. Water essential to health, food security, energy, and the ecosystem. It is not shared equally or justly among people and most importantly it is wasted terribly even in countries that suffer from water scarcity such as Yemen. About 70 percent of the agriculture water goes waste because of traditional irrigation techniques. And the way water is stored if at all, is quite inefficient and causes pollution and many times tribal conflicts.

Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International explained that many global policy initiatives for environmental sustainability, development, and food and energy security do not address this issue sufficiently. And that this must change.

What I understand from his statement is that he is raising a global alert explaining to the rich/ powerful countries that they have to start action immediately because water is a global issue and can not be limited to only one place. And also there is that responsibility that comes with power and wealth, which the strong countries need to act upon.

The report indicates that the water crisis is undeniable and the corruption challenge it faces is urgent. More than 1 billion people worldwide have no guaranteed access to water and more than 2 billion are without adequate sanitation, which has devastating consequences for development and poverty reduction.

The report also adds that irrigated land helps produce 40 per cent of the world's food, but corruption in irrigation is rampant. Addressing this risk is fundamental to increasing food production and tackling the global food crisis. “Massive new investments in irrigation have been announced worldwide to help counter the food crisis, yet water shortage means food shortage and if corruption in irrigation is not also addressed, these efforts will fall short,” stated Labelle.

Also drinking water and sanitation: the poor carry the greatest burden

When corruption occurs, the cost of connecting a household to a water network increases by up to 30 per cent, raising the price tag for achieving the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation by a staggering US$48 billion, according to expert estimates in the report.

Nonetheless, as the Global Corruption Report shows, taking action against corruption in the water sector is both timely and feasible. For more on the report and its recommendations, please read the Transparency International report summery on the environment page. And remember water is life, so use it carefully.