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Buenos vistas


Some more facts for 'evidence based policy' on water privatisation, damned as 'freemarket ideology - ill suited to the needs of the poor' (NCE 12 September).

In Buenos Aires there are new household connections serving 800,000 people from 'depressed areas', 400,000 in Manila and 200,000 extra served in Jakarta, all as a result of public private partnerships.

The poor in the slums of those cities are now enjoying up to 90% cost reduction for significantly more water of better quality, more conveniently supplied, compared to previous purchases from hand-cart vendors.

This improvement in living standard is the result of international private operators accepting the considerable risk of investing in middle and lowincome countries. The water systems are not yet perfect and perhaps there should be a better way of serving poor households in developing countries than paying profits to shareholders in London and Paris.

Yet if the alternative is a public provider we should ask, as another example, how many of the 4,000 publicly supplied urban areas in India receive 24 hour water supply. Remember it is the poor who suffer most from intermittent supply.

Richard Franceys, Institute of Water & Environment, Cranfield University, MK45 2DT

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