Despite its initial ambition to seek solutions in market-driven innovation and research in accessing to safe, clean and affordable water and sanitation, the European Commission proposal (released last 14 May 2012) on the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Water only strengthens a vision of water as a commodity and not as a public good. EPHA evaluates the proposal Against the background of its support to the European Citizens’ Initiative Right to Water.
As the Environment Commissioner stated at the Communication’s launch, the Innovation Partnership is to "help ensure that we can continue to provide safe, available and affordable water for all, by supporting the development of innovative solutions to deal with water challenges – while simultaneously aiming to position Europe as a world leader in water technology and services." This seems to contradict the European Commission (EC) proposal, in which several references are made to the social and economic impacts of challenges related to water, public health and biodiversity relevance of sufficient water quality and supply of safe drinking water and sanitation.
The partnership will focus on "removing barriers to innovation" and connecting the supply and demand sides of water related innovations. The activities of the EIP on Water will be structured around challenges in the areas of urban water management, rural water management (to be coordinated with the EIP on Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability) and industrial water management (energy, agriculture and chemicals), as well as addressing cross cutting themes (unspecified).
The partnership is linked to the Europe 2020 flagship initiative on Resource efficient Europe and it builds on the Eco-Innovation Action Plan, which focuses on boosting innovations that reduce pressure on the environment and on bridging the gap and removing the obstacles between innovation and the market. Innovation is also identified as a key tool to support the policy options to be developed by the Blueprint to protect Europe’s water resources – the EU’s response to the ongoing vulnerability of the water environment – to be issued in November 2012.
reference to public health, fight against poverty and the Millennium Development Goals is welcome, however these remain rather vague and not fully integrated and reflected in the further text of the Commission proposal
removal of water innovation barriers and "market breakthroughs" (regulatory, financial, standardization, technical, social), poses a threat to greater liberalisation of water supply making it unaccessibile and unaffordable for those who cannot pay - the most vulnerable groups in our societies
focus on industry-led research and innovation poses a threat of little if any meaningful involvement of civil society and non-profit organisations representing those the most affected by the current water challenges as well as those from the key water-related sectors such as public health, agriculture and food, environment
focus on more efficient and effective use of water is welcome, but the partnership does not fully recognise an exisiting problem of vast numbers of people in Europe and globally lacking access to basic water and sanitation services
the research and innovation in the water domain remain - as usual - driven by market needs to unlock business and industry potential, ambition to increase competetiveness of European R&D in water at the global market
the innovation aimed to ensure access to sustainable, clean and affordable water is welcome provided the outcomes of such research remain in the public domain and trully contribute to increased water and sanitation services for all
solutions aimed to align the objectives of the current partnership with those of the EIP on Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability, as well as looking into water management in such crucial sectors as agriculture and food production are welcome
All in all, the Commission’s proposal on the EIP on Water - if not improved - is to increase the currently prevailing harmful for human rights vision on water as a commodity and not as a public good for all.
EPHA related articles