Case Studies

Bolivia

Bolivia has experienced one of the most dramatic incidents with private involvement in WSS in recent years. A massive mobilization of well-organized water users in the city of Cochabamba prompted a high-profile political crisis in the country forcing the withdrawal of the entire federal cabinet in April 2000. For many observers, the crisis highlighted one of the crucial obstacles facing private involvement in WSS in developing countries: the implementation of technocratic models with complete disregard for the local conditions, especially in the socio-political and cultural fields. Among other factors it is worth stressing the perceived illegitimacy of a new Water Law passed in October 1999 (due to the lack of political accountability in the legislative procedures) with the active involvement and financial backing of multilateral organizations like the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), and the disregard for the long-standing and widespread social and political opposition to the privatization of the water utility in the city of Cochabamba. As a result, Aguas de Tunari, an international water consortium led by International Water, a UK-based company, withdrew from the 40-year concession that had been granted only few months earlier and the Bolivian government underwent a far-reaching reorganization.


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