Have you ever engaged in political debate or taught an informational session IN A SLUM? That’s what some were doing at the World Water Forum last week in the Village of Solutions‘ make-shift demonstration slum. Veolia, the largest private water service company in the world, presented the stand pictured above as a ‘solution’ to the water crisis. On Tuesday morning, I had the opportunity to interview Thomas Hascoet, Project Manager for Veolia in Paris, about it. He began working with Veolia’s Social Connection Program in Morocco in 2006. The Social Connection program is a program designed to increase water access for low-income families through unique financing frameworks and technology, with a goal to reach 3 million Moroccans over 10-20 years. After six years,the program has helped 80,000 households acquire clean drinking water and sanitation services.
The standpipe resembles an ATM, but instead of dispensing money, they dispurse 40 liters of water per person per day. The standpipe ensures secure and individualized access, because all users are issued an electronic water-monitoring key, similar to an ATM debit card. The standpipe ensures that the families who do not yet have access to individual connections benefit from exclusive access to the social connection.
Privatization of water is controversial throughout much of the world. Many people are concerned about possible price hikes and lack of serving the poor due to private companies’ incentives to make profits. While Veolia claims that water prices are now more equitable and fair for all citizens, many Moroccans are displeased with what they see as the French company profiteering off of their natural resources. However, the Moroccan government has historically not been able ensure access to clean drinking water for all citizens, so Veolia is filling a gap. Their solution provides the residents with an option for safe and clean water that is fairly priced.