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Water privatization fiasco in South America offers lessons for Michigan

Jan 10, 2017

For centuries, residents of the Great Lakes state have been able to take water for granted. But the Flint water crisis, coupled with 70,000 households in Detroit having their water shut off, have forced Michigan to confront water issues in a way we never have before.

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Valerie Vande Panne, an award-winning journalist, thinks that in order to learn from these water crises, we need to look to the south. To Bolivia. That's where people fought back, and won, against corporate water control.

Vande Panne, a former editor of the Metro Times and a contributor to numerous publications like the Boston Globe and Politico, wrote a column in Model D  titled "What Michigan Can Learn from Bolivia's Water Crisis."

In 1999, the water in Bolivia was privatized, which led to an increase in rates. But the people of Bolivia rose up and fought to regain control over the water supply. At the heart of the struggle against privatization was a belief that water is a basic human right.

Not everyone in Michigan shares that viewpoint.

Listen to the full interview above to hear about the differences between the Bolivian people and Michiganders, the Bolivians' their approach to water, and what questions Michigan residents should be asking when it comes to what is coming out of their tap.

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