Amazon River Water Being Stolen and Bottled Abroad
Photo via UC Berkeley
A recently published report is exposing some shocking exploitation of the Amazon's natural resources--and this times it's water being stolen. Where is this water headed? According to the report, "tankers are quietly removing water" to be bottled and sold in Europe and the Middle East. This is coming at a time when regions of the northern Amazon region have been experiencing a devastating drought that threatens the livelihoods of its people. This burgeoning crime is known as hydro-piracy, and it could foreshadow a future of resource wars as clean water supplies become scarce.Hydro-Piracy is Illegal, But Not Uncommon
This isn't the first time the crime of hydro-piracy has come to the attention of Amazon watchdog groups. Tankers were known to be exporting oil to South America and refilling their tanks with fresh water from the Amazon to import back to Europe and the Middle East.
It is estimated that each tanker returns with approximately 5 million gallons of Amazon River water. For bottling companies, it is considerably less expensive to treat freshwater than to procure it through desalinization.
But, according to the report published in the law journal Consulex, such pillaging of resources is illegal under Brazilian law and must be addressed:
This illegal practice can not be neglected by the Brazilian authorities in order to be considered property of the lakes, rivers and any water currents on lands owned by the [Federal government].
New Methods Arise as the Old Ones Go Unaddressed
The report discloses a new method being implemented to illegally export the Amazon River which may be more efficient for hydro-piracy. Instead of their internal tanks, large bags are being filled with freshwater and towed back across the Atlantic.
Journalist Von Erick Farfan was one of the first to point out the ongoing exploitation of the Amazon's water. He says that scientists and the Brazilian authorities were informed that oil tankers are replenishing their reservoirs in the Amazon River before leaving the national waters, according to EcoAgencia, but lacked the 'formal' complaint required to prompt any action.
Farfan points out that the hydro-piracy has direct links to multinational corporations.
Are They Taking More Than Just Water?
The interest in preserving the Amazon River, however, goes beyond politics. Scientists argue that biodiversity is being threatened by the trafficking. Professor Ary Haro of the Federal University of Parana:
Since it is still unknown, we can formulate theories and one of them may be linked to smuggling of fish or even of microorganisms.
Water Shortages May Lead to Wars in the Future
Water is expected to become increasingly scarce in the future, partly due to a change in rain patterns as a result of climate change. According to the report, between 1970 and 1995 the amount of water available to each inhabitant of the world fell 37% worldwide, and that currently about 1.4 billion people lack access to clean water.
Some say that in a period between 100 and 150 years, global conflicts are likely to arise from a lack of available water. Estimates say that somewhere up to 26% of the world's fresh water resides in the Amazon, which is likely to make it a key strategic resource for Brazil in the future.