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Suez in trouble in Barcelona?

19 March 2016
The Superior Court of Catalonia decided to invalidate the corporate manipulations used by Aguas de Barcelona to retain its monopoly concession for managing the water and sanitation services in the Metropolitan area of Barcelona.

The court invalidated the newly created joint venture, owned 70% by Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar), 15% by AMB, and 15% by Spanish company Criteria, and declared the 35-year no-bid concession contract null and void. A dissenting voice on the court indicated that the no-bid renewal of the concession was justified because of Agbar’s heavy investments in infrastructure over the years. Agbar will appeal.

This decision came as a result of the work of an alliance of activists under the banner ‘Aigua és vida’ (Water is Life), which is a long-standing member of the global Water Justice Network. Aigua és vida raised legal challenges, indicating that Agbar (a subsidiary of French MNC Suez Environnement) never had valid concession contracts in its 150 years of operation in Barcelona.

Agbar manages the entire water cycle for more than three million residents of AMB, from the water source extraction, transport, treatment and distribution, to collecting and treating wastewater. Aigua és vida has asked that Agbar return the water services into public management, with citizen participation and oversight – that water and sanitation services serve the benefit of all, rather than corporate interests.

PSI congratulates "Aigua és vida" for such a victory and suggests that activists examine the legality of the concession contracts in the many other countries where Agbar operates.

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