Karen Bakker discusses the rise and retreat of water privatisation

Private sector involvement in water supply is one of the most controversial trends in international environment and development--generating conflict and heated debate around the world. Proponents argue that the private sector can contribute to solving the world's global water crisis--particularly with respect to supplying the poor. Opponents argue that private companies will exacerbate exclusion, inequity, and negative environmental impacts. In this paper, I document evolving patterns of private sector activity worldwide, and argue that the continued growth of private sector activity--combined with the strategic retreat of private companies from certain countries and regions--may be read as an intensification rather than straightforward retreat from neoliberalization. The paper considers the implications of these findings for resistance to privatization, and also explores debates over post-neoliberalism and putative ‘alternatives’ to private water supply. I conclude with reflections on broader debates over neoliberalization and the environment.
About Karen Baker:
Dr. Karen Bakker is Professor, Canada Research Chair, and Director of the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia. Organised by ENTITLE (ICTA-UAB) and Urban Transformation in the Knowledge Society Research Program (IN3), with the collaboration of: Aigua es Vida, Escuela de Commons Barcelona y IGOP Video: a collaboration between El Programa de l'Aigua de LaTele.cat and ENTITLE (ICTA-UAB)