As water has become scarce every day, financial institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), have been pushing governments to embrace the private sector in managing their water resources. The ADB, as one of the leading multilateral development banks in Asia, has been financing diverse water sector projects from drinking water and irrigation to the construction of large storage and cleaning of rivers.
Approved in 2001, ADB’s Water Policy has been criticized by civil society for promoting water as a commodity instead of acknowledging it as a basic human right. The Bank’s “Water Financing Program” program has been closely monitored for its strong bias towards private sector participation in managing the elixir of life, converting water from being one of the commons to an economic good.
This year, the ADB has presented its draft water operational framework for 2011-2020. With its own notion of water resources being submitted to severe stress, ADB offers several modalities in managing water, providing a much larger role for the private sector. Coupled with structural reforms as part of the conditionalities that will go as mandatory with its financial assistance, a great threat is looming over the relevance of local communities, farmers’ organizations, local water associations, and other people’s organizations in managing water resources. And with its pro-business agenda and corporate approach, the different cultural values Asians have for water may soon be neglected. In such a scenario, would water still be for all?