Celebrating World Water Day, MAB and its partners intensify resistance against water privatization

Militants carry out an action in the House of Deputies, trying to widen presence in the fight against conservatism

MAB seminar convened militants and partners in the Chamber of Deputies auditorium. Photo: Gabrielle Sodre/MAB

On the celebration of World Water Day on March 22nd, militants of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) highlight this date by demonstrating the importance of the conservation of this resource in Brazil.  The entity organized a seminar with different partners in the House of Deputies to emphasize, among other issues, the struggle against the privatization of water, a matter that mobilized not only the popular fronts in many states but also an initiative by progressive parliamentarians in the National Congress.

Iury Paulino, a militant representing MAB’s national coordination, stated that the organization envisions numerous reasons for articulating spaces, such as this seminar, that assist in highlighting this issue in both the political sphere and the media in general.  Beyond the World Water Day, MAB recalls the 4th anniversary of the assassination of Dilma Ferreira, a leader from MAB who was murdered in March 2019, in Para, in what has become infamously remembered as the “Baiao Forum massacre”.

She fought against working conditions similar to slavery, illegal timber exploitation and other illegal activities.  MAB seeks to keep alive Dilma’s memory and strengthen the popular journey in favor of collective rights.  “We understand that this is a decisive juncture in Brazil. We are at a moment of change and need to be very organized. The question around water and the control over strategic goods and essential resources for the Brazilian people needs to be discussed in this Chamber”, affirmed Iury Paulino.  

MAB is deeply concerned about the layout of the political arena in the National Congress, this current legislature is even more conservative, which could undermine the popular front’s agenda in these two legislative bodies.  “The process of awareness raising in this House is essential.  We foresee great difficulty, given the reality of this institution, but it is important that we are here to claim it as our own, this space needs to be occupied by the Brazilian people”, defended the MAB coordinator. 

The Wednesday event also marked the launch of the book, “The financialization of water: an analysis of the privatization of water services in Teresina, Piaui State”, by Dalila Calisto, member of MAB.  The militant underscores that the publication’s objective is to point out which sectors act socially and economically as “the enemies of water, the working class and the environment”.

“The book’s message is to identify what capital has done to privatize water and sanitation as a call to action to the working class, the only response capable of true resistance and revolution, to organize, understand what is actually occurring and construct struggles in defense of this common good.”


Photo: Gabrielle Sodre/MAB

Varying life experiences related to the topic were shared with the seminar’s audience, including that of the social worker Maria Jose Pompeu Sodre, who lives in the western region of Bahia State, where she    develops agricultural activities.  She explains that the local community has been fighting for more than 20 years against agribusiness predatory actions, namely land grabbing and water appropriation.

The contamination of groundwater, harm to collective health and violence against leaders who resist the invasion of these practices are also elements of the context experienced by the community.  Maria Jose underscores that this scenario impedes more and more access to rivers and natural resources by the local inhabitants.

“Currently, the population runs the risk of dying from thirst while living along the riverbanks. For this not to occur, we need to organize, and it is not only MAB’s fight, it’s a collective fight. We are talking about an economic model that exclusively favors big business.  The people who live there, the human rights defenders have suffered terribly”, voices the social worker.

Popular struggle

The theologian, philosopher and professor, Leonardo Boff, was among the participants that partnered with MAB to discuss this issue. In conversation with Brasil de Fato, he praised the action of critique and the political pressure exerted by the popular sectors that fight for water conservation and for universal access to this resource.

The theologian also pointed to the Brazilian position regarding this issue in recent discussions. The country is home to 13% of the world’s freshwater, and due to this, it could become in the future the center of an enormous worldwide geopolitical dispute, according to different experts. When asked about the historical role of the current generation of Brazilians when facing this situation, Boff referred to the importance of Brazil’s joining the rest of the international activists in search of a “new global contract” in regard to this question.

Caption: Deputy Celia Xakriaba (left) and theologian Leonardo Boff during the debate that discussed water conservation

“Brazil can greatly contribute.  It already exports lot of water. Through soy, citrus fruits, in all the commodities that it exports water makes up an essential part, especially with respect to meat exports.  Therefore, Brazil plays a fundamental role.  I would go even further: the conservation of the Amazon is the guarantee that life will continue on the planet and that climate regimens are minimally favoring the sustainability of life”, he added.

Photo: Gabrielle Sodre/MAB

For Boff, the action and the expressions of life of the Indigenous Peoples are fundamental in this context due to how they protect global environmental patrimony.  “They are our teachers, our doctors because they do not manage nature.  They are part of nature.  When they defend nature, they are defending themselves, they have ancestral knowledge that we have lost, they understand medicinal herbs,  waters and the plants and there is a profound solidarity among them”, stated the philosopher when he stated that these communities “disown competition”, a fundamental characteristic to the capitalist mode of production.

As a principal spokesperson for the indigenous agenda in the Congress, Deputy Celia Xekriaba (PSOL party from Minas Gerais State) was one of the Congress members who supported the event.  She emphasized the importance of legally recognizing indigenous areas as an essential measure to ensure environmental equilibrium. This issue has been the most prioritized in First Nations’ history, especially in the last couple of years.

“We as Indigenous Peoples are not even 1% of the Brazilian population, we are 5% of the world population; however, we protect more than 80% of the world’s biodiversity.  This demonstrates how much we protect water, territories.  The UN has recognized that today the best solution to halt climate change is to demarcate our territories.  We have just finished experiencing 4 years of the absence of the government because of an anti-environmental government and the ministers of the environment were essentially us.”

Editing: Thalita Pires

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