n Occupational Risk Management - Water on sale : comment

Volume 5, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1817-6585


The French businessman's eyes gleamed with the passion of enterprise as he told me of the profit he expected to make from water-purification services in Africa. We met by chance in Springs in the 1980s, when I was still a novice environmental news reporter.

The water business plan would not work in South Africa, I said, our services are too well developed, our municipalities too exacting and proud of their revenue sources, our health services too vigilant. "Give it time," he said. "A few deaths from cholera and the government will come running to me for water solutions." He was fresh from an African country where he said he had made good profit from saving lives. I caught the disturbing idea that this businessman and his company may consider administrative sabotage, or at least take every opportunity to supply some infrastructure, allow the public to fall into mounting debt, and thereby privatise the water that Springs, for one, seems to have an abundance of. But the environment, like government and business, proved to work according to more complex models than I imagined then. Business gives, and business takes away.

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