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Water and organised crime

Eman, K and White, R ORCID: 0000-0002-8800-0093 2020 , 'Water and organised crime', in K Eman and G Mesko and L Segato and M Migliorini (eds.), Water, Governance, and Crime Issues , Springer, Switzerland, pp. 47-59.

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Water is a basic requirement of human life. It is always needed and, therefore, marketable.Today, water is one of the most valuable resources in the world, even moreso than gold or oil. In the late 1990s, the re-conceptualization of water as a tradeablecommodity occurred (Alston & Mason, 2008), accompanied by privatisation of itsownership and management, which caused numerous changes concerning the rightsof the users and the ways of its use. Scarce supply and unequal access to water havealso been affected by factors such as climate change and excessive agricultural irrigation(Johnson, South, & Walters, 2015; UNESCO, 2012). Restricted quantities ofclean water make it a particularly valuable property for those who own and controlit. It also opens the door to corruption and the involvement in organised criminalgroups in its supply and distribution.Environmental safety and wellbeing—including provision of clean drinkingwater—is closely linked to national and international security. The main pressure ongovernments in protecting the environment comes from the private business sector,which inherently strives for the maximization of profit even if this is at the expenseof the environment (Bisschop, 2011; Elliott, 2009; Klenovšek & Meško, 2011).When environmental protection laws are passed, many companies will comply; butothers will try to circumvent the norms that are in place to protect the environment.This can translate into situations where further pollution or depletion of naturalresources occurs with the assistance of organised criminal groups and/or illegalservices which enable companies and individuals to continue their previous profitable activities. An example of this is waste management and the contractingout of waste removal by legitimate companies to unscrupulous operators who disposeof the waste illegally (Dobovšek, 1997; Massari & Monzini, 2004; Situ &Emmons, 2000; Watson, 2005).Longer periods of water shortages, together with the competing rights of irrigatorsversus environmentalists and urban versus rural populations raised several hugechallenges for politics and policymakers (Alston & Mason, 2008, p. 214). The mostimportant is the fact that every human has a right to water and sanitation. The factthat water was accepted as a tradeable commodity and that people need it for theirsurvival, offered an opportunity for never-ending business. Thus, the increasing significancegiven to the commodification of water and the decreasing significance ofthe environmental uses of water opened the door to the water trade as big business.The prioritization of economic dimensions of water began in the 1990s and hasaccelerated since then.Freshwater became a lucrative investment because its scarcity means a hugeprofit for water-related businesses. The rising freshwater industry is estimated to beworth around US$1 trillion a year (Johnson et al., 2015, p. 149). Gleick (1998,p. 571) notes that the human right to water, the limits of fresh water sources, and theneed for sustainable development were pushed into the background as secondaryconsiderations because of the logic of privatization and prevailing economic models.Water ownership and use have been reconstructed in law and policy in the interestsof private companies. This situation creates inequalities and injustice in thedistribution of freshwater. Existing laws are still subject to violation in the form ofwater-related corruption and violence, water theft, water market price fixing, andviolations of the regulations on water quality. Here corruption also plays a significantrole, as transparency in the water sector is often limited (Eman, Furdi, Hacin,& Dobovšek, 2016; Spapens, White, van Uhm, & Huisman, 2018). Moreover, thepossibilities for making huge profits always attract organized crime.

Item Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Eman, K and White, R
Publisher: Springer
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