Woods builds a case against the growing privatization of the world's dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on the disturbing picture of the battle for its ownership and the commoditization of the resource. The film raises the question of whether water should be a human right or a tradable commodity.
It tells of the personal tragedies behind the privatisation of water supplies. More than a billion people across the globe do not have access to potable water. The situation can only get worse as water gets scarcer and the film depicts this by showing how these people are forced to live because of this situation.
It covers interviews of leading activists fighting for the right to water, persons heading private water utilities, heads of governments and the people dispossessed of water rights to indicate how big corporations are making money off the suffering of the people. It also indicates how western countries are encouraging global drought by importing fruits and vegetables from regions that have suck their aquifer dry in the process of over farming. And even in America, the richest nation of the world, many people have to work or lobby hard to ensure their right to clean water. The film covers demonstrations sponsored by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and other groups protesting around 40,752 water shut-offs in Detroit. Couple of families who went without water are interviewed in the film.
The film shows how the battle lines have been drawn between the farmers in a village north of Jaipur in water starved Rajasthan and the water guzzling Coca Cola company, which is extracting half a million tonne of water a day from the underground aquifer, as a result of which farmers in a radius of 50 kms are devoid of groundwater for irrigation and drinking.
The case from Bolivia depicts how the World Bank is compelling developing countries to privatise their water supply, arguing that the increased efficiencies will be good for the economy and the people. For the French global corporation Suez, the privatization of the water system in Bolivia, it’s profit over people so the poor are left without water even though there is a water pipe running past their home.
The film depicts the travails of an 8-year-old Bolivian girl, Vanessa in El Alto as her parents cannot afford the $200 connection fee (about 9 months income for them). In one scene she laments to her father why they cannot have some water from the millions of gallons of water that they see behind the barbed wire fence at the city’s main water treatment plant, only a few meters from their home.
Good macroeconomic and political insights on the reality of water depletion and the response in terms of water privatization are highlighted. The case of Tanzania shows the reversal of water privatization and how the water company was asked to leave the country.
The film is an informed and heartfelt examination of the tug of war between water needs of people and private interests, which as Vandana Shiva says are trying to rewrite the laws of life.