How Many Lives Does This Bot­tle Cost?

World of Knowledge (Australia) - - Contents -

The scan­dalous truth be­hind the world’s drink­ing wa­ter

thought ex­per­i­ment: imag­ine a cor­po­ra­tion sets up head­quar­ters in your city. Large ware­houses and fac­to­ries are built, a new work­force is re­cruited, and a fleet of blue trucks stands ready and wait­ing. Then holes are drilled into the ground. Deep holes – more than a hun­dred me­tres deep, reach­ing far into the soil. The work­ers are search­ing for some­thing. But what? When all that drib­bles out from your taps and show­er­heads is a brown, stink­ing brew, you re­alise what the cor­po­ra­tion is dig­ging for: wa­ter.

Af­ter a short time the com­pany makes the com­mod­ity avail­able again. Packed in plas­tic bot­tles for 1,000 times its for­mer price, the wa­ter can be bought in the su­per­mar­ket – in fact, that is now the only place to ob­tain it. An ab­surd sce­nario? In some coun­tries, wa­ter is still a pub­lic good and is not al­lowed to be en­tirely pri­va­tised – at least not yet. In many parts of the world, how­ever, this sce­nario is far from un­usual…

It is just af­ter 6pm in Doorn­kloof, South Africa. Lawrence picks up a freshly pack­aged wa­ter bot­tle and makes his way home from the Nestlé bot­tling fac­tory. To get there, the fac­tory worker has to walk through a long tun­nel that runs be­neath the mo­tor­way. Lor­ries thun­der by over­head, each of them laden with the wa­ter that he has just bot­tled. Lawrence lives in a vil­lage on the other side of the tun­nel – sim­ple wooden huts, cabin toi­lets, moun­tains of rub­bish.

At home his chil­dren grab cu­ri­ously at the half-litre bot­tle of wa­ter. Re­plen­ish­ments will ar­rive

“Wa­ter is life. De­priv­ing a hu­man of these nat­u­ral re­sources is noth­ing short of mur­der!”

Moulana Us­man Baig All In­dia Imams Coun­cil

VALU­ABLE GOODS In Aus­tralia lit­tle thought would be given to a 0.5-litre bot­tle of wa­ter like this one. In coun­tries like Nige­ria, how­ever, bot­tled wa­ter is vi­tal for sur­vival – but is more ex­pen­sive than petrol.

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