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Apr 23 2007
Supplied or written by Willy
The Hindu, Tamil Nadu
23 April, 2007

*Public-public partnership in water sector works: expert *

T. Ramakrishnan

/Idea is to enable knowledge transfer to weaker organisations /

*AGAINST PRIVATISATION: (From left) Water rights activists Tamsyn East of the United Kingdom, Julian Perez of Bolivia, Santiago Arconada of Venuzuela and Olivier Hoedemann of Netherlands at a meeting on privatisation of the water sector in Chennai on Sunday. — Photo: M. Vedhan *

CHENNAI: Public-public partnership, envisaging collaboration between two public utilities/local bodies, is workable in the water sector in India, according to Olivier Hoedemann, research coordinator of the Corporate Europe Observatory, an Amsterdam-based voluntary body.

To queries whether the concept would work in local bodies in India, which, generally, suffered from lack of infrastructure and technical manpower, Mr. Hoedemann told /The Hindu/ the idea was to enable the transfer of knowledge from stronger organisations to weaker ones.

Local bodies from several European nations, including Italy, France, and Norway, were keen on sharing their knowledge with their Indian counterparts. To strengthen the local bodies in India, investment programmes should be taken up, he said.

Asked whether the World Bank could be approached for investment, Mr. Hoedemann said there was nothing objectionable provided the bank did not impose conditions.

Earlier, addressing a meeting organised by the Madras Institute Development Studies (MIDS) and the People's Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), he said there were concrete examples of the concept of public-public partnership working in many nations, including South Africa and Indonesia. A public water operator in Amsterdam had taken up a programme of helping utilities in Indonesia and Romania. "The concept is based on solidarity and mutual advantages," he said.

Santiago Arconada, adviser to the Venuzuelan President Hugo Chavez, said water was not provided free of cost in his country but there should be no profit motive in operating the public water supply system. Julian Perez, a water engineer who is serving in the Bolivian Water Ministry, explained the popular struggle against the water privatisation drive in Cochabamba about seven years ago. He said the idea of privatisation would not benefit the people.

Tamsyn East, campaigns and parliamentary officer of the World Development Movement, said her organisation had been campaigning against the British Government funding water privatisation policies.

V. Suresh, PUCL president, said the areas of policy-making, decisions and cost determination concerning water issues should remain in the public domain. The Tamil version of the publication, "Reclaiming Public Water," would be released in Chennai on April 30. S. Janakarajan, MIDS professor, said there should be no role for the private sector in the water field as the sector was guided by the profit considerations.

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