Thursday 2 June 2016

Italia Acqua

In Ireland during the last General Election to Parliament earlier this year, the most important issue for candidates and voters alike was . . . water. Particularly Irish Water [Bloboprev], the "independent" quango set to implement joined up thinking about the supply of  clean, cryptosporidium, clear, chlorinated water so that everyone could wash their cars without worrying whether the jalopy would come down with a disease. Some deluded, not to say simple, folks sincerely believe that 'water comes from the sky' but you don't catch them out in the rain washing their cars. Slightly better informed folk refused their Irish Water bills because they objected, with justification, to aspects of the way Irish Water was set up.  But if you object to every new venture in Ireland that involves feather-bedding, nepotism or inefficiency. then you'd never stop saying No!

As an on-topic but not totally logical segue from Irish water infrastructure to a wider perspective, consider the news from Firenze this week. A huge sinkhole opened up along the quays of the River Arno in downtown Florence 300m long and 7m deep in the middle. The hole is now filled with a couple of dozen parked cars whose combined weight was too much for the roadway to support. The earth under the roadbed had been completely eroded by a leaking water-main. In Jan, I wrote about an similar event when two Surinamese waitrons and a trolley overloaded with dirty plates crashed through the floor in Diergaarde Blijdorp. In contrast to Firenze, two people were injured in that avoidable accident.

Why was the water main in Tuscany's principal city not fixed? Because Italy, no more than Ireland, is unable to invest in the aqueous infrastructure so that clear, clean, chlorinated water comes out of taps rather than gets pissed away on the journey from the treatment centre.

STOP PRESS.  Earlier this week, in response to an official question from Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, the European Commission issued a directive that Ireland must charge for water on the principal of polluter pays. There had been a derogation from this principal, which is designed to conserve a precious and increasingly rare commodity, for Ireland because we had never had direct payment for water let alone water metering . . . until Fianna Fáil and the Greens had set up the framework for Irish Water in 2010. Once an EU country has started to charge for water, it can't go back to satisfy the whims of political expediency. Lynn Boylan's case is that the 'custom and practice' in Ireland is to pay for water out of general taxation; and that the debacle of Irish Water, started by Fianna Fail and implemented by Fine Gael as SS Bloatware with jobs for all the waterboys, had never overturned this local practice. The fact that the 'custom and practice' had led to gross wastage /leakage of water and redundancy and inefficiency of management is another story.  It was interesting to listen to Ms Boylan get shrill and contemptuous with RTE's interviewer Mary Wilson : accusing RTE of lazy-arsed tendentious broadcasting of The Man's point of view rather than the edgier, more radical Sinn Féin / Boylan view. Did I accuse RTE of putting The Story before a more nuanced and critical  'truth' just yesterday?  It's no more than you expect of a state broadcaster, I guess: RTE tribs itself as fearless and independent but is staunchly middle class, middle-of-the-road and status quo in its coverage because that is the demographic of the people who work there.

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