Bottled Water
Fri, July 13 2012 15:34
Bottling Small-Scale Farmers' Water

The busy highway to Sukabumi in West Java, Indonesia, is dotted with heavily-guarded industrial complexes; each painted distinctive cobalt blue. They are part of Indonesia’s bottled-water industry, an industry that denies access to water to small-scale farmers by buying land on which essential water sources are located.

Abah Uyeh, 75, and his wife raised seven children from their small plot on one of Sukabumi’s lush green hills. “When we moved here in 1957 there  were fish ponds and we could grow rice,” he says. The ponds have long since disappeared, and the land has become too dry for rice. They now grow less-valuable peanuts.
This family and their neighbors depend on annual tropical downpours to replenish their wells. As the water table has lowered over the years they have also relied on springs located on neighbors’ land in the valley at the foot of the hill to tide them through the dry season. Now they are losing access to that water source. Large bottled water companies control the valley’s natural springs, as well as those in nearby communities. There are 15 bottled water companies in this area, jointly-owned by foreign companies such as DANONE. Eighty percent of the profits go to the foreign co-owner.

The bottled water business has grown rapidly. Since 1990, the companies have been drilling for water from ever-deeper levels. “They are stealing water. Local ponds, like Abah Uyeh’s, have dried up.”

In the valley below Abah Uyeh’s plot, a bottled water company bought land that has a spring. They built a sturdy high fence around it, and a concrete guardhouse. They then hired a guard from a neighboring community. Now another company has bought the remaining open spring, which is as yet unfenced. Abah Uyeh and his family are concerned they will soon lose access to this water source. This situation is being repeated throughout Indonesia, wherever there are abundant supplies of spring water. Indonesia’s water resources law, heavily influenced by foreign lenders such as the World Bank, emphasizes water’s economic value at the expense of the human right to water. Bottled water companies promise to provide water services equivalent to 20 percent of the water they remove from Indonesian springs such as this one. But with little government supervision, they often underreport what they extract. Few, if any, water facilities have been provided for Abah Uyeh or his 42 neighbors despite the vast quantities of water taken from the valley. In Sukabumi, KRuHA tries to find a solution to this community’s problem. They discover that the small-scale farmers had a longstanding tradition of sharing water. But since the companies have come to the area, they have been trained to think that water can be owned.

Aqua Golden Mississippi was established in 1973, sold its shares to French company DANONE on September 4, 1998. With all the confidence that a majority (74 per cent) ownership a stable European company brought to Aqua, it soon released a new product called Aqua DANONE.. Delisted from the Indonesia Stock Exchange and became a private (closed) company in December 2010

Read also : Bottled Water – Big Business in Indonesia

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