The Human Impact

Corruption in water sector increases hunger risk – experts

August 28, 2012

Stamping out corruption in the water sector is crucial to boosting global food production as world population growth increases pressure on water supplies, according to experts meeting at World Water Weekin Stockholm.

Corruption in the water sector is already a major problem for farmers and it’s likely to get worse as competition for water increases, a joint statement released by the Water Integrity Network (WIN), Transparency International and the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Water Governance Facility at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said.

Governments, businesses and civil society must work together to improve transparency in the water sector, and introduce better checks and balances to counter corruption and nepotism, the statement said.

“It’s about raising awareness, pushing and talking about it – that makes a difference” WIN research coordinator Binayak Das told TrustLaw.

“This creates a sense of accountability – if the information is out there it’s difficult to be more corrupt.”

Decisions about projects affecting water supplies should be made open to the public, and government agencies and private entities should not abuse their power, the statement said.

CORRUPTION CHALLENGE

Already, more than two-thirds of freshwater is used for agriculture and biofuels – and food demand is predicted to double by 2030 as the global population grows and diets change, the joint statement said, citing U.N. data.

Corruption occurs throughout the food production process, Hakan Tropp, director of UNDP’s Water Governance Facility, said.

Defeating corruption in the water sector is critical in helping reduce hunger, Tropp told TrustLaw.

“It’s not a silver bullet, but if we can resolve these water integrity issues it can go a long way to increasing food security,” he said.

Corruption is one factor driving small-scale farmers to leave their land and move to the cities, Tropp said.

Bribery is often used to get permits for water and land title deeds in what is often a complicated and lengthy process. “These are things that are being exploited by certain groups leading to land evictions. If you don’t have access to land you don’t have access to water. If you have unstable access to land and water it is very difficult to be a farmer,” he said.

Although he has seen some improvements in the way authorities regulate water systems, “it’s more difficult to say exactly how this will impact on corrupt practises itself”, Tropp said.

“When it comes to the water and food challenge it’s critical to look at the actual availability of water and how water is being managed,” he added.

More than 2,500 aid workers, water researchers and policymakers are at the annual SIWI conference where the overall focus this year is on water and food security issues.

Picture credit: A labourer carries a container of mud while working on a roadside as it rains in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi August 7, 2012. REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma

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