ARTICLE 19 launches report analysing governmental transparency over São Paulo’s water crisis

ARTICLE 19 Brazil launched a report last week analysing the levels of transparency of the public agencies involved in managing the water crisis in São Paulo.

The Cantareira system, São Paulo’s main water reservoir, is close to drying out. This is a crisis for the metropolitan area of São Paulo which, with 20 million inhabitants is the largest metropolis, solely responsible for 19% of Brazil’s GDP.

Although the entire region is suffering a historical drought, a number of critics argue that the water crisis could have been avoided.  They claim that the São Paulo state government, which is responsible for the water supply, has not managed the problem correctly.

ARTICLE 19’s report, ‘Sistema Cantareira e a Crise da Água em São Paulo – a falta de transparência no acesso à informação Cantareira’ (System and the Water Crisis in São Paulo – the lack of transparency in access to information), analyses the transparency of the public agencies involved. It explores this under two headings:

  • ‘Active transparency’ (where the agency provides information spontaneously), analysing 11 public agencies
  • ‘Passive transparency’ (where the agency provides information in response to a formal request), analysing seven public agencies.

The report also analyses the relationship between the right to water and sanitation and the right to information. It cites the international treaties to which Brazil is a signatory, which oblige the country to implement measures to ensure the human right to water and sanitation.

The report concludes by noting the lack of transparency in the information published about the management and control of the water crisis in the Cantareira System. It highlights three issues:

  • The difficulty in accessing and understanding the information
  • The lack of availability of official statements and notes
  • The controversial nature of the information provided by public agencies

The report states that “one can also conclude that there is an attempt by the São Paulo State Government to minimise the severity of the supply problem”.  It goes on to state that “the climate of uncertainty relating to the likely duration of water supplies for consumption (…) compromises the legitimacy and the level of performance of the government institutions involved in water management. ”

The report (in Portuguese) can be downloaded here.