"Water mafias" force poor to pay more for public water supply

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Washington, August 22 : A new report has indicated that worldwide corruption driven by mafia-like organizations throughout water industries is forcing the poor to pay more for basic drinking water and sanitation services.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the Water Integrity Network (WIN), an advocacy group, and the anticorruption group Transparency International (TI) made the report.

The report determined that if bribery, organized crime, embezzlement, and other illegal activities continue, consumers and taxpayers will pay the equivalent of US 20 billion dollars over the next decade.

"The water sector is one of most corrupt after health and education," said Hakan Tropp, chair of WIN.

"That's because the poor often don't have a voice in strategic water policy decisions," said Christian Poortman, head of the TI, which collaborated with WIN on the study.

In developing countries, corruption bumps up household water prices by at least 30 percent, experts say.

In Honduras, for example, residents who either cannot afford connections to centralized water systems or live in places where water is not easily accessible pay 40 percent more for informal water supplies, according to TI's Donal O'Leary.

"The water is often delivered in trucks or pushcarts by entrepreneurs, who in some cases secure supplies illegally from a bigger water company," O'Leary explained.

In Bangladesh and Ecuador, mafia-like groups often collude with public water officials to prevent access to cheap water services.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that countries such as El Salvador, Jamaica, and Nicaragua spend more than 10 percent of their income on water services, in part due to corruption.

In comparison, those in developed nations such as the United States pay approximately 3 percent.

Corruption in water industries also affects farming and energy production.

Expensive contracts for hydropower and dam projects are the most susceptible, and experts expect the disparities to worsen as climate change and the fuel crisis takes hold.

For instance, to prepare for climate change, countries will create more large-scale water storage projects. Likewise, as gas and oil become less reliable energy sources, investments in hydropower are expected to increase.

TI estimates that there will be up to US 60 billion dollars invested annually over the next decade in hydropower and dam projects.

"In agriculture, nearly 25 percent of irrigation contracts in India involve some kind of corrupt deal, mostly with the government," said Poortman.

"Lack of access (to clean water) is not just about scarcity-more than anything it is because of failing governments," he said.

While corruption with large-scale projects is dramatic, "it is the petty corruption, which generally involves local police and officials, that affects people everyday," said Teun Bastemeijer, program manager for WIN.

ANI

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