Water crisis – SOS!

Brazil – São Paulo faces water catastrophe

Oded Grejew, the man who thought up the World Social Forum, is astounded at the government’s – and society’s – passivity. The orignal article in Portuguese, published by Envolverde, is available here. Article translated by LAB.

The city of São Paulo is faced with an unprecedented social, economic and environmental catastrophe. The Cantareira system [the water supply system for São Paulo, composed of five interconnected reservoirs] is at about 6% of its capacity and the water level is dropping, at about 0.1% a day. Which means that in 60 days the system can run COMPLETELY dry.

The president of Sabesp [São Paulo’s state water company] has said that the system may collapse in March or, in the best case scenario, June of this year. AND THERE IS NO PLAN B in the short term. This means that six million people will be left WITHOUT A DROP OF WATER or facing enormous shortages. It’s not just a case of rationing or restrictions. There could be ZERO water, NOT A DROP.

Do you realise what this means in social, economic (thousands of businesses out of action, with enormous unemployment) and environmental terms? Are you aware that the crisis will affect the most vulnerable first (the poor, children and old people) and then all of us?

What amazes me is the passivity of society and the authorities in the face of an imminent disaster of this scale. All that society and the government have done is absolutely insufficient to confront this veritable catastrophe.

It seems that we are all anesthetised and incapable of acting, reacting, pressuring, alerting and, above all, mobilising around short-term actions and emergency plans and policies that would drastically transform our relationship with our environment and water resources.

There is unanimity that this is a crisis that is going TO LAST FOR A VERY LONG WHILE, given that it has been allowed to reach the present dramatic situation. At the moment, it seems that we’re relaxed and tranquil on a Titanic, unaware of the iceberg that we’re approaching.

Our intention with this SOS is to call on the authorities, opinion formers, leaders and citizens to become aware very urgently of the grave crisis facing the city; a catastrophe is striding towards us.

We need to stop deceiving ourselves. It is essential that everyone is involved in a massive mobilisation so that actions and measures are taken on the scale of the dramatic situation in which we live.  We need to put aside rivalries, political and electoral interests and ideological disagreements. There is no lack of knowledge, of ideas, of proposals (the São Paulo City Council has approved a whole raft). What we lack is mobilisation and leadership to face up to this great challenge.

We all need to take responsibility and do what we can in accordance with our power, our technical competence and our conscience. Every day there is less time.

Oded Grajew is a businessman, coordinator of the executive body of Rede Nossa São Paulo, and emeritus professor of the Instituto Ethos.