The thirst

November 5, 2008

There are great disparities between international prices, but there is a standard rule for all people in the world: the greater the poverty, the more expensive clean water gets.

In the southeast of Argentina’s province of Chaco, one must choose between food and water. 1000 liters costs 40 Argentine pesos. A family needs at least 5000 liters a month. In eight months there have been only 100 millimeters of rain and the groundwater layers flee to the center of the earth.
In Coronel Du Graty, also in Chaco, two municipal taps must cater for 10,000 neighbors, but last August all of the water the tank held –- the tank from which everyone had to get it -- was stolen.
A year ago, in the European Parliament, the mayor of Nairobi denounced the fact that water was more expensive than Coca Cola in Kenya and most of the population could not even afford a soda. Kenya lies next to the second largest lake in the world -- Lake Victoria -- and the great River Nile.
Eighty percent of the planet’s diseases are caused by the consumption of non-potable water. Over a billion people lack access to it, and even when it exists in sufficient amounts, the poor cannot reach it.
Nearly 3800 children die each day as a result of thirst or drinking contaminated water. Half of the 1.8 million children who die every year for these reasons are African.
On September 3, the Latin American Water Tribunal denounced the fact that 7.7 million people do not have access to potable water in Guatemala.
The experts state that the biggest problem is not scarcity but the bad administration and distribution of water resources. The governments of the different countries in the world -- developed or developing -- have begun to sell their people’s thirst. With the excuse of improving the supply, they delegate the exploitation of the resource and the supply (of tap or bottled water) to big corporations. But the service, instead of having improved, grew worse and more expensive. And, on top of that, since it is now profitable, companies believe they have the right to dry up entire cities, which they tried to do in Argentina’s province of Tucuman, in South Africa, and Bolivia.
Thirst -- just like its older sibling, hunger -- has the wind’s patience. It is a silent hurricane, blowing where it is told to, or where it is allowed. To grow up and live without drinking water turns men into walking sores.
In Argentina -- home of some of the most important water reserves in the world -- oversight, vegetation clearance, and bad management of the soil make life unbearable in some provinces. In Santiago del Estero, Chaco, and the north of Santa Fe, schools and towns slim down and dry up, and finally disappear as if they had only been a mirage in the dust.
Everyone who is able to, escapes this hell. The sub-Saharan people get on boats and throw themselves into the sea, that liquid desert that enters them only to devour them before they reach the prisoner camps awaiting them in Europe.
Our compatriots in northern Argentina get on trucks and trains -- if they can still be found -- and move to the outskirts of the great cities to enjoy paradise: the filth of others and a tap from which, at times, a sigh comes out.
The Spanish language original version of this article can be viewed at the web site