World water - a case for 007, pray?

By Annegret Kapp
November 13, 2008

World cinema's most famous spy is back and this time he fights a villain trying to control strategic water resources in a developing country. Is the script of the latest James Bond movie too far fetched a fictional plot?

"Control over water translates more and more into profit and power," says Maike Gorsboth, the coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, an initiative of churches, Christian organizations and movements working on people's access to water and on community-based solutions to the water crisis. In the following interview, Gorsboth spoke to me about water as a human right – and about how cinema and reality may have more in common than we think.

In the latest James Bond movie, which hit the screens in Europe last week, the villain is seeking to control the "earth's most precious resource" in a developing country. How realistic is the idea of a mafia gaining control over a country's water supply?

Already today we are witnessing struggles over the control of water supply and resources. With water scarcity increasing and demand for water rising steadily in many countries around the world, control over water translates more and more into profit and power. Companies are buying water rights and land in order to secure their access to water resources. Often they do not care much about the rights of communities or environmental consequences and deplete and pollute this precious resource.

So, in a way the idea of the movie is not as far fetched as one might wish. However, one of the problems is exactly that, while corruption does play a major role in the water sector, what is happening is often not illegal. Legal provisions ensuring public control and regulating private ownership and use of water resources are in too many cases lacking or insufficient.

If water should become more precious than oil in the future, it may be a concern for secret services. But why is "water for all" something the churches should worry about?

Without adequate access to water, human dignity is harmed and development impossible. And those who suffer most from missing and unequal access to clean water are the poorest. Now, this is not simply an inevitable result of physical water scarcity. This is about political, social, and economic factors determining who gets water and who does not. That makes it an ethical concern, a matter of justice.

James Bond, of course, tackles the problem gun in hand. What kind of action do churches take?

In the movie the villain almost succeeds because he is working in secret and because he uses other people's greed and corruption. Churches around the world are raising awareness and are educating people about what is happening, warn of the danger of privatizing the very source of life. They speak up for the poor and most vulnerable and thus help them to defend their right to water against more powerful interests. And they counter the tendency to reduce water to an economic commodity by reminding people and authorities alike of the social and spiritual value of water.

More information on the Ecumenical Water Network:


(c) Annegret Kapp is a web editor and writer with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland.

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