Every 20 seconds a child under five years of age dies from waterborne illnesses.
Dirty water kills more children than war, malaria, HIV/AIDS and traffic accidents combined.
By 2030, nearly half of the world’s population, the majority living in underdeveloped countries, will be living in areas of high water stress.
One of the biggest and well known companies in the world is actively, knowingly, and unashamedly aggrandising and exacerbating all of these, and other, water-related problems in our world.
Nestlé is draining developing countries’ groundwater to make its, ironically named, “Pure Life” bottled water. Using aggressive water grabs in Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria, countries where access to safe tap water is virtually non-existent, Nestlé is draining local groundwater, processing it at bottling plants and affectively forcing local inhabitants to buy their water back at a price.
If this appears as the altruistic posturing of a “do-gooder” or the biased generalizations of someone searching for affect then all the evidence you need to support these statements can be found in persuasive and celebrated documentaries such as Bottled Life (2012) and Blue Gold (2008).
Nestlé have been pursuing this policy for a long time and over a decade ago laid the foundations for the most effective realization of this destructive, selfish and purely profit-based initiative. At the World Water Forum in 2000, Nestlé utilized all its corporate power and fought hard to ensure that water was not defined as a universal “right”, but rather as a “need”. What this has meant is that conglomerates have been able to privatize water as a commodity, subjecting it to capitalistic market exchange and the consumer’s buying power.
Nestlé have seriously capitalized on this over the last few years and, with control of 70% of the world’s bottled water brands that include Perrier and Vittel, it is having a seriously negative affect on our world, both environmentally and socially. Where water grabs are happening, such as in Bhati Dilwan, Pakistan and Nairobi, local communities are being left with dried up wells and access only to, what has been aptly described as, simply foul smelling sludge. As a result they now depend on “Pure Life” bottled water.
To compound such injustice, Nestlé have also adopted concentrated marketing campaigns in developing countries that target the upper-classes. Capitalizing on the fact that carrying bottled water is seen as a status symbol in certain countries, and the fact that the upper classes in such countries spend a large proportion of their income on bottled water, the water is priced high. In Nigeria, “Pure Life” is more expensive than the average daily income of a Nigerian citizen, and costs more than 1 litre of petrol. This means that the poorest are confronted with the unjust choice between health and poverty – becoming ill from drinking bad water but unable to afford Nestlé’s inflated prices.
Kelly Price of Urban Times perfectly summarizes the issue at hand here,
“This case presents another example of the neoliberalist and postcolonialist attitudes of multinational giants like Nestlé, who attempt to subdue millions of human beings by suppressing human needs and commodifying something that should not bear a price tag.”
In a world where challenging injustice can seems daunting, and often unachievable, we can work together to stop the abuses Nestlé is committing. If Nestlé thrive because of consumer buying power then we, as consumers, can vote with our feet. I love Nesquick and KitKats probably a little too much but in choosing not to buy or support Nestlé products we can make a difference. It may seem like an insignificant gesture individually, but collectively it can have a great impact.
Another way is to sign the Sum of Us petition here. Please do.