Monday, April 05, 2010

Hosni Mobarak and bottled water

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was recently operated in Germany to have his gall bladder removed. Hosni Mubarak assumed presidency on October 14th 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat. At the time, many had predicted that Mubarak's rule would not last and he'd be ousted in no time. That was almost 30 years and Mubarak is still the President of Egypt. Of course, Mubarak was smart enough to avoid the cardinal mistake made by Sadat. Contrary to Sadat who surprised everyone by visiting Israel and addressing the Knesset on November 20th 1977
Hosni Mobarak has never set foot on Israeli soil - not once in 30 years. There's a man with lofty principles. But I am digressing.

Why am I picking on a sick old man having surgery in a German hospital and what does it have to do with bottled water? Well, during his 30 year reign, Mubarak could have invested in Egyptian hospitals so that when the day came, he would not need to fly to a a foreign land to have his gall bladder removed. The ruling elite of any country should not be shielded away from the conditions that apply to the rest of the population. Rulers and legislators should have access to the same medical care as everyone else, not better and not worse. Thus, when the day comes to vote the budget of the health ministry, given that state of public hospitals directly affects their own lives, legislators will vote in a way ensuring reasonable medical standards for all, including themselves. There should be a law preventing officials who have serve in high public office to seek medical care in foreign countries.

What does this have to do with bottled water? In many countries, the quality of tap water is better than that of bottled water, for example in Switzerland where Nestlé is headquartered. This hasn't prevented Nestlé's from making outrageous claims about bottled water being better for the environment than tap water. (A few billion dollars is reason enough to bend the truth.) Notwithstanding Nestlé's assertions, it goes without saying that the ecological impact of conditioning and transporting water in individual bottles is orders of magnitude higher than that of tap water.

In other countries such as Turkey where water is still plentiful, the quality of tap water is noticeably worse than bottled water. Instead of making the necessary investments in water treatment installations and water conduits, Turkey's population as well as its politicians are busy drinking bottled water causing further degradation to the environment. Therein lies the danger of bottled water. It gives the illusion that one can be isolated from the surrounding water and air pollution and live healthy lives. In the same way politicians of developing countries attempt to shield themselves from the living conditions of the masses resulting in the continued neglect of public hospitals, bottled water allows the masses to isolate themselves from their environment. On the long run, this strategy is as efficient as sticking one's head in the sand which admittedly provides momentary relief.

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