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Privatisation of water in La Paz, Suez-Aguas del Illimani, Bolivia

In 2005, the mobilization of the inhabitants from La Paz and from El Alto, raising against the privatization of water, kicked out Suez French multinational from the country


According to the Bolivian Constitution, all basic services have to be guaranteed by the state, who also has to ensure that they are universally distributed and watch over their quality. However, in 1997 the de Lozada's government started a privatization process across all sectors in the country, including water utilities. Water service and sanitation in La Paz and El Alto were handed over to the company Aguas del Illimani S.A., a subsidiary of Suez-Lyonnese des Eaux, with grants from the World Bank. In 1997, in fact, the the World Bank declared that it would stop providing Bolivia with international development grants unless the government of Bolivia privatized the water supply of La Paz and El Alto. Consequently, Alteños have found themselves fiscally constrained by the new contract that controls their water distribution.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Privatisation of water in La Paz, Suez-Aguas del Illimani, Bolivia
State or province:La Paz
Location of conflict:La Paz and El Alto
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Water access rights and entitlements
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

U$52 million investment, derived from soft loans, that means, loans with low interest awarded by the International Cooperation to support through private companies to poor countries. BM U$40 million through the IFC; BID U$15 million and U$10 million from CAF.

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Level of Investment:50,000,000 from several sources
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:200,000
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux from France
Aguas del Illimani (AISA) from Bolivia
Relevant government actors:SAMAPA (Servicio Autonomo Municipal de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado) - Bolivia, Municipality of El Alto - Bolivia, Municipality of La Paz - Bolivia, Ministery of Water,
International and Finance InstitutionsCorporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) from Venezuela
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)
The World Bank (WB) from United States of America - El Servicio Municipal de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de La Paz (SAMAPA) recibió $US 490,000 del Banco Mundial, con el propósito de mejorar la capacidad institucional de la empresa, y transferir al sector privado una empresa saneada y eficiente
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Federación de Juntas Vecinales (FEJUVE) - Bolivia, FEDECOR - Bolivia, Committee for the Defence of Water and Life (Cochabamba) - Bolivia, Coordinadora del Agua, Trabajadores Central Obrera Regional de El Alto
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases, Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:New legislation
Development of alternatives:The local population wants to stop the water privatization
Remunicipalization of water services and sanitation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Despite the withdrawal of the privatization plan, as a result of Suez-Aguas del Illimani leaving the country, the Bolivian State has to pay total compensation of US$15.1 million dollars: US$9.6 million to repay loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), plus US$5.5 million to repay Bolivian Aguas de Illimani shareholders. And the security of water supply has not been achieved yet.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Decree Resolution 27973

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Microgobiernos Barriales - Levantamiento de la ciudad de El Alto. Mamani Pablo. 2005 - The Water War. Vandana Shiva.

FEJUVE, 2005, Necesidad de cambiar la política de organismos de cooperación internacional
[click to view]

Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua - Veredicto de la Audencia Publica Regional, Mexico

Marzo 2006
[click to view]

[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Abusos de Aguas del Illimani, F. Poupeau, Red Voltaire, 20/05/2002
[click to view]

[1] Cultural Survival - Bolivian Protesters end Water Privatization in La Paz, El Alto
[click to view]

Vivendi y el agua en Bolivia, F. Poupeau, Monde Diplomatique, May 2002
[click to view]

One Year with Suez: ¡Fuera! (Out!), The Water in El Alto and Who Owns It, presentation of a video produced by M. Corcorran and L. Katona
[click to view]

Día 1: Balance del indefinido paro alteño, E. R. Andrade, 11/01/2005
[click to view]

Fejuve recurrirá a presiones inéditas para lograr salida de AISA de El Alto
[click to view]

El Alto para desde hoy, el Gobierno dice que no cederá, 02/03/2005
[click to view]

Los Factores para la expulsión de Aguas del Illimani de las ciudades de La Paz y el Alto, C. C. Flores, PublicCitizen
[click to view]

Other documents

Bolivian Protesters end Water Privatization in La Paz, El Alto Forschungs und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lucie Greyl, Joan Martinez Alier, Daniela Del Bene
Last update30/12/2015
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