Sunday, May 06, 2012

What water shortage? What energy crisis?

Water is a saleable commodity underr capitalism. And, of course, the first thing is to declare that water is a scarce resource and that there exists a shortage of water, a water "crisis" that only capitalism remedies with a price-rationing. The fiction of water shortage in Africa has been a multi-million dollar business.

Much of the conquest of Africa by colonial powers was to reach the source of the Nile and always central to imperial objectives in Africa, requiring the water to support colonial mining, agriculture and industrial uses to the detriment of the vast majority of the peoples. Settler colonialists consumed vast amounts of water for irrigation, sprinkling elegant gardens and for their swimming pools while there was water shortage for the majority. Irrigation schemes had been established by the settlers to provide water for the farms and the political and economic power of settlers. During the period of apartheid, the minority government in cooperation with the World Bank invested in the Lesotho High Water Dam to dispossess the people of Lesotho for industries and big corporate entities in South Africa. As in South Africa, so all over Africa these schemes benefited the rich. And there the negative lessons from the old forms of capitalist industrialization, as witnessed the obscene waste of the Arab Sheiks in the Emirates who are building mega projects based on the salinization of water.

Today we are now being told the truth about the abundance of water resources in Africa."Huge water resource exists under Africa ... Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater. They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface. The team have produced the most detailed map yet of the scale and potential of this hidden resource."

 In reality, the publication by the British scientists on the large underground supplies of water should not be news. The scientists collated their information from existing hydro-geological maps from national governments as well as 283 aquifer studies.  It is the kind of work that should have been undertaken by the Economic Commission for Africa and the commissions of the African Union.

The fact that Libya has the highest storage of ground water in Africa has been known by the people of Libya and the people of North Africa. It is for this reason that the government of Libya had embarked on the great water transfer scheme to harness the resources of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer. The Libyan state had invested $25 billion in the Great Man-made River Project, a complex 4,000-km long water pipeline buried beneath the desert that could transport two million cubic metres of water a day. The objective of this, (up to 2011) the largest engineering project in Africa was to turn Libya - a nation that is 95 per cent desert - into a food self-sufficient arable oasis.

African policy makers and planners also know that in Africa there are abundant freshwater resources in large rivers and lakes such as the Congo, Nile and Zambezi River basins and in Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. However, there are great disparities in water availability and use within and between African countries, because the water resources are so unevenly distributed. In regards to the nile , the mal-distribution can be traced back to colonial-dated water treaties.

This fabrication of water shortage had been successfully sold to the point where the idea of providing clean water for all in Africa is reproduced as part of ‘aid’ packages. reproducing the story about food shortages as the story of water risks provided a good foundation for the multibillion dollar aid industry. Food and water ‘security’ became interwoven. Under Millenium Development Goals,  number 7C to "Half, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation" that can only be reached by more neo-liberalism and by opening up African resources to international capital. The World Bank continues to promote the privatization of water resources and support giant water projects that dispossess the working peoples of the urban and rural areas. The World Bank have been at the forefront of the struggles over the ideas of whether water should remain a public good, shared by humans everywhere, or a commodity to be bought and sold on the market.  This same struggle over water has taken place elsewhere in the world and intensified in Latin America where the struggles of the Bolivian people are now legendary. There is deep dispute over water as a source of life for the common good, as opposed to water being understood as an economic "good"  – a commodity to be bought and sold.

The unification of the water resources of Africa is one of the primary bases for African unity with a system of canals linking rivers and lakes in the kind of infrastructure planning that ensures that all will have water. It is socialist planning at the Pan African level which can make water for all a reality. The Nile water shed,  the Congo River basin, the Mano River basin, the Niger River societies and the societies of the Zambezi and Orange rivers there is need for planning so that there is a new concept of integration and unity. These rivers, lakes and underground water resources are commonly owned by all of the peoples.

In the socialism the reconstruction and transformation of Africa will mobilize the energy, skills and talents of all Africans so that the peoples can believe in the ideas of African and World Unity. This vision of reforestation and healing the African environment by the Great Green Wall (a 15km wide and 7000km long swath of land from Djibouti in the east and stretching to Senegal in the West and passing through Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania, can mobilize millions of workers, youths and engineers for a new sense of priorities for Africa. Advances in solar energy technology, harnessing the underground water resources, the electrification of Africa and an infrastructure of canal systems await Africa. Such projects places the concept of One People at the level where it touches concretely the lives of the people.

The management of water and water resources continues to be at the top of the list of re-construction. But also ready to be tackled by socialist democratisation are health, electrification and energy,  infrastructure (roads, bridges, rail, canals, and airports), education, agriculture and aquaculture, housing, and information and computer technology. It is time for a complete break from the old forms of "development" and industrialization that threaten to destroy the planet Earth.

The African continent has abundant supplies of water and energy. Among the ample renewable energy resources; hydraulic energy, solar energy, wind energy,  the tidal energy and volcanic thermal energy. It is now possible to plan for the mobilization of the physical and "spiritual" energy of people and with these abundant resources create a new world. The politics of transformation of Africa requires a new politics among the people.

Adapted from here

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