Sear Parched Sao Paulo

saopauloOn Monday, the New York Times published an article about Sao Paulo’s water crisis.  Here is my response:

In “Taps Start to Run Dry in Brazil’s Largest City” (Americas, Feb. 16), Simon Romero blames Sao Paulo’s water crisis in part to poor planning and a “chronically leaky system” overseen by the city’s water utility Sabesp.

Although Romero writes that Sao Paulo State controls Sabesp, the utility has operated since 1996 as a public-private partnership with stock currently traded on the both the Brazilian and New York Stock Exchanges.  Due to the demands of investors, Brazilian critics say, Sabesp’s management resisted calls to repair and replace aging pipes and increase capacity while there was still time.  Instead, generous dividends were paid to shareholders.  Sao Paolo’s dehydration is not just a story of overwhelmed public officials ill-equipped to deal with overpopulation, drought, and pollution.  It’s also a cautionary tale for those considering proposals to turn over essential resources to private interests.

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