September 2, 2013

Nestle's war on public water

Urban Times - In a post-colonialist fashion, Nestlé wields its corporate power in exploiting and draining global water resources in places ranging from North American locales such as Maine and Ontario to developing countries such as Ethiopia, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Water is the new gold. Nestlé hydrogeologists have replaced the gold panning prospector of a bygone era, as they scour places like rural Maine for their next great water source. Nestlé have exploited loopholes in Maine‘s state law governing groundwater acces, in particular law dictating that whoever owns land also owns what’s underneath it.

In turn, the corporation has utilized their purchasing power to buy entire areas upright and gain access to the water supplies. The small town of Fryeburg, Maine proved a perfect domain due to its location on an enormous aquifer. What Fryeburg’s residents could get for free by turning on their taps, was in turn re-sold to them in a plastic bottle marked ‘Poland Springs’.

In 2004, a pump failure in the town caused Fryeburg’s water supply to run dry, and anger toward the unaffected Swiss-based corporation came to the forefront. A citizen group banded together, calling themselves the Western Maine Residents for Rural Living (WMRFRL) and petitioning against Nestlé for destructing their quality of life.

The following year, after Nestlé announced plans to build a water load-out facility in Fryeburg, WMRFRL were prepared to fight back. The Fryeburg Planning Board initially approved Nestlé’s permit, but were met with community backlash from concerned residents. WMRFRL successfully appealed the approval by advocating the Planning Board’s inconsideration toward the impact of such a load-out facility on the town, a fact that is stressed in the town’s comprehensive plan. As a result, Nestlé took the rural town to court.

In the last five years, the food and beverage multinational has sued and appealed the town five times and finally won on its fifth attempt in March 2010, despite WMRFRL’s best efforts. The court ruled in favour of Nestlé, their reasoning being that Fryeburg’s comprehensive plan is to be used as a guidance rather than a regulation. Resistance is never futile, and although Fryeburg was up against a wealthy opponent, their efforts managed to keep taking them to court and fight for people over profit.

Despite the residents’ best efforts, Nestlé possesses seemingly unlimited legal funds that could bankrupt a small town. Resistance is never futile, and although Fryeburg was up against a wealthy opponent, their efforts managed to keep taking them to court and fight for people over profit.

Nestlé’s water prospecting extends north to Canada as well. In the past few months, the Council of Canadians have raised concerns over Nestlé’s water extraction in Hillsburgh, Ontario during drought conditions–a state that has become increasingly common due to climate change.

Nestlé currently holds a permit through to 2017 to take about 1.1 million liters of water per day from Hillsburgh, carrying out bottling operations in the nearby town of Aberfoyle. This occurs while other nearby towns have by-laws to restrict their personal water access during dry summer conditions.

Similar to Nestlé’s dealings in Maine and Hillsburgh, the multinational’s actions in underdeveloped countries are just as ethically questionable, but considered more serious due to access to clean drinking water posing a life-and-death situation. Having discovered a profitable market for bottled water in the global south, Nestlé has carved itself a niche in countries such as Ethiopia, Pakistan and Nigeria where safe tap water is virtually nonexistent.

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1 comment:

  1. This is nonsense. You use more water washing your car than they sell in a truckload of water.

    ReplyDelete