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Thousands protest against water crisis in São Paulo

Represa Billings

The activists are calling for more transparency about Billings dam water qualityDivulgação/Sabesp

The Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) staged a demonstration yesterday evening (Feb. 26) to protest against the water crisis in São Paulo. Some 15,000 protesters marched to Bandeirantes Palace, the seat of the state government, and presented a document with the movement’s demands to representatives of Governor Geraldo Alckmin.

The activists are calling for an emergency plan to distribute water tanks and rain barrels and drill artesian wells in remote neighborhoods; more transparency about Billings dam water quality; no further fee increases; the termination of water supply agreements that favor large businesses; and equal conditions for all in rotating water supply among households as part of the water rationing program. They came out against reportedly stricter household rotation conditions in poorer areas.

MTST representative Guilherme Boulos said the government has to admit the problem exists and that the current policies are extremely unfair, punishing the population who are already suffering from lack of water by cutting off water supply or imposing fines if they increase the consumption, while “industry and agribusiness are the ones who are really using most of the water”.

A water truck led the march, surrounded by marchers as if escorting it. According to MTST member Josué Rocha, the allegory is meant as a criticism of the current situation of water shortages and police brutality in Greater São Paulo. A dummy man in a bath tub and shower was used to represent the governor, and banners were carried with messages demanding water for the population.

Translated by Mayra Borges

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