Sunday, December 10, 2006

The aquatic Robin Hood

Water scarcity is a serious problem. It gets worse year by year and its effects are particularly notorious in the poorest zones of cities in developing countries.
One of those cities is Mexico City, one of the largest (and, according to some people, the largest) cities in the world. Located in a valley that originally contained a lake, over which the city was built, this city is today home for millions of people. Originally, the water to supply the city was pumped up from the underground lake; however this technique brought as consequence the sinking of the city and with it, serious damages to buildings and roads. The pumping method was discarded and a network of pipelines was built to bring water from rivers outside the jurisdiction of Mexico City. However, the water supply keeps being quite inefficient.
This phenomenon is specially notorious in the east side of the city, in a zone known as Iztapalapa. This is one of the most densily populated districts in Mexico City, and one with the lowest income per capita rate too.
This week, the newly appointed Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, went to this part of the city to evaluate the lack of water problem for the neighbours, where he stated the following:
"There are people who sweep [the streets] with water. We'll take down the 'waterie' that they receive, so they can know how does it feel like and let's see if they understand that way".
The proposal was to reduce the supply in the western side of the city (where some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods are located) to bring more water to the east, a proposal seen as a "Robin Hood" initiative in which Ebrard will take water from the rich to give it to the poor. This obviously brought the upset of some western neighbours and government representatives, who claimed that making that would be an error, as there are several sectors in that side of the city where the population has also low incomes and where some other services lack from time to time too.
I think that a Mayor of a city should really be concerned to apply win/win strategies in their jurisdiction, and not thinking of win/lose ones. Thus I wouldn't agree that taking water from some neighbourhoods to suppy others is a good idea; perhaps the real solution would be to expand the pipeline network and to build some treatment plants to recycle water.
But still, this Mayor has a point for him: there are indeed (not only in Mexico City, but almost in every city in the world) some individuals that make an inappropriate use of the water. Some people wash their cars and sidewalks with water running from the hosepipes, and there are others who, knowing to have a water leak in their houses, they do nothing to fix it. That is wrong to do, I guess. It's time for mankind to found a real water culture that creates awareness of the big problem that may arise in upcoming years if we don't start caring about water right away.


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