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Another reason to oppose the privatization of Grand Rapids water system

April 4, 2011

In February we posted a third article on the possibility that Grand Rapids may privatize the water and sewage system. In that article we noted that Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell had already had conversations with two French multinational corporations with regard to water privatization.

We also noted that the two companies Veolia and Suez both have a long track record of making profits more important that environmental integrity and human access to clean water. We now have yet another reason to oppose signing over our local water rights to Veolia.

Last week we noted that March 30 was an international day in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the state of Israel. Upon further investigation into the BDS campaign we discovered that Veolia, one of the two French multinationals in conversation with the City of Grand Rapids, is the target of the BDS campaign.

Veolia has several divisions besides water, one of which is transportation. Veolia is one of several companies that are collaborating on a rail project in Israel/Palestine called the Jerusalem Light Rail Project (JLR). The JLR is being targeted by the international BDS campaign because the rail will serve as another tool in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

According to one BDS website the JLR project would, “link illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Not only do the settlements contravene article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention forbidding an occupier transferring its own civilians into the territory it occupies, but in most cases the establishment of the Israeli settlements involved war crimes too. The tramway tightens Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, ties the settlements more firmly into Israel and undermines chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people.” In addition, Veolia operates bus lines for Israeli settlers, running them between illegal settlements and Israel.

Derail Veolia

With mounting evidence against Veolia’s role in project that violates the Geneva Convention (In April 2010 the UN Human Rights Council declared the JRL and its operation to be illegal A/HRC/RES/13/7) a specific campaign to stop the project (Derail Veolia) has emerged.

This campaign not only has the support of numerous national and international organizations, the campaign has also sought to end other transportation and water contracts. For instance, a Swedish faith-based coalition was able to get the city government of Stockholm to end its contract with Veolia after the company had operated the metro in that city for 10 years.

This campaign has also won other victories by getting communities in places like the UK, Australian, Ireland and even the corporation’s home country of France to end contracts with the multinational.

The Derail Veolia campaign has been effective at some level, but more pressure needs to be put on the company in order for them to pull out of the Jerusalem Rail Line project all together.

People who live and work in the Grand Rapids community can support this kind of action for solidarity with the people of Palestine. We should tell the Grand Rapids City officials that we not only do not want our water to be privatized, we also object to Grand Rapids contracts with a corporation that contributes to the oppression of Palestinians and violates the Geneva Convention.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 2:20 pm

    I think veoila taking over our water in sewage is a reality. Last week i saw a veoila truck parked in front of a man hole cover and workers were inspecting the sewer by the nw corner of kendall.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    April 5, 2011 2:22 pm

    Robert, Veolia has had a corporate office in GR for years, but the truck you saw is one of their energy services operations. The City has not privatized the water yet.

  3. April 5, 2011 2:25 pm

    oops. water and sewage

  4. Kate Wheeler permalink
    April 6, 2011 3:40 pm

    In fact, that Veolia is a member of our “business community” makes me even more nervous that this whole thing is going to take place with minimum citizen input and that negotiations, that have already begun according to the mayor, will continue quickly and smoothly on the capitalist side.


  1. Discussion on Water Privatization at the Bloom Collective 4/26 « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Veolia, the Israeli Occupation and Grand Rapids contracts « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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