Store

Water grabbing, a new world atlas maps the most vulnerable areas

Quali sono le aree più a rischio siccità o dove l’accesso all’acqua non è garantito? Un atlante ci mostra dove si verifica il water grabbing, l’accaparramento dell’acqua.


The expression water grabbing or “water hoarding” (not to be confused with land grabbing) refers to a situation in which powerful actors, public or private, are able to take control of or reallocate precious water resources for their own benefit at the expense of local communities and the ecosystems on which communities’ livelihoods are based.The effects are devastating: families are driven from their villages to make room for mega dams, water sources are privatised, water is polluted for industrial purposes that benefit few and damage its quality, and military forces seize control of water sources to limit development.

Clean water is a human right, a right to life

In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution recognising access to clean water and sanitation as fundamental human rights. The historic resolution on the motion presented by Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia, along with thirty other countries states that, “drinking water and sanitation services are human rights essential to the full enjoyment of the right to life and of all other human rights”. Yet today this right isn’t actively protected by member states.

Member states have also failed to respect the United Nations treaty on transboundary waters to mitigate the risk of conflicts related to water, which only 39 states have signed to date. The United States and China remain deaf to calls to support the legal document.

water grabbing
© Gianluca Cecere

In the so-called developing parts of the world but also in some industrialised countries water is turning into a private good or one controlled by those in power from being a freely accessible common resource. Under the pressure of growing water demand due to increases in population and industrial growth in developing countries in the grip of climate change, which is more and more visible in our daily lives, water is becoming a source of conflict. It is a scarce commodity that must be “hoarded” at a neighbour’s expense, even to the detriment of women and girls who take care of gathering water daily taking time from education and work.

The Watergrabbing – An Atlas of Water special, published with the support of the European Journalism Centre and Gruppo CAP in partnership with seven news services, looks into the water hoarding phenomenon. Every story explains a specific theme (transboundary waters, dams, hoarding for political and economic purposes) and shows the players involved, country-by-country. Photos, articles, and maps will take you on this journey. A geographic atlas has also been created as a reference tool, available for download to the curious reader, student or researcher. Take time to read and discover what water grabbing means. So that water can become a right for every country and each of its citizens.

© Maps: Riccardo Pravettoni. Infographics, graphic design: Federica Fragapane. Text: Emanuele Bompan and Marirosa Iannelli
Related articles
The Omo Valley, where life flows with the river

The tribes of the Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia live in close contact with nature and the river they depend on. We explore how their ancestral ways of life are being threatened by the impacts of a mega-dam, climate change and a booming tourism industry, in this exclusive reportage.