Suez Water Legal Department

Suez Water Legal Department

The water access situation is already critical and is exacerbated by Chile`s significant exposure to hydrological risks. Projections of increased water demand show that Chile will be one of the countries most affected by climate change due to rising temperatures, decreasing rainfall, melting glaciers and increasing cloud cover, which requires the introduction of concrete large-scale measures to ensure the supply of water to the population. Therefore, it is crucial that concession companies and their parent companies consider and address the risks of future human rights violations related to these incidents. He then headed the legal department of the CMA-CGM Group, a French company specializing in maritime transport. The protests that have taken place in Chile since October 2019 and throughout 2020 express public discontent with the consequences of the neoliberal policies of the military dictatorship and successive governments, an excellent example being the management of water supply, which was suddenly privatized during the Pinochet dictatorship. The system of privatization of public services is currently being seriously challenged, as the supply of drinking water to a significant part of Chile`s urban population is severely disrupted. The water supply in Chile is regularly the subject of incidents. Between 2010 and 2017, sanitation companies in Chile were fined 699 – an average of 87 penalties per year – for failing to comply with their obligations to provide contractual services. Fines averaged nearly $25.11 trillion, or $3.14 trillion annually. For example, in the case of Aguas Andinas, the company that controls ESSAL, five major shutdowns were reported between 2008 and 2017, affecting more than 1.1 million customers for 26.9 hours.

In July 2019, 2,000 litres of oil were released at the Company`s drinking water treatment plant in Osorno, Chile. The oil spill caused a 10-day citywide water outage that affected 49,000 homes and basic services, including hospitals, health centers and nursing homes. The oil spill also reached two local rivers, the Rahue and Damascus. During the crisis, the Minister of Health warned of the impact on public health, particularly the risk of increased gastrointestinal diseases and hepatitis A due to poor water quality. Without epidemiological testing, there is no data to determine the exact number of deaths and illnesses caused by water pollution and the fact that vital services in hospitals, health centers, dialysis wards and nursing homes have not had clean water for 10 days. This water crisis has prevented the province`s main hospital, San José de Osorno, from functioning properly, affecting emergency rooms, intensive care units, surgery, general medicine, pediatrics and neonatology, among others. In addition, patients in urgent need of help were referred to other hospitals and about 500 people suffered cancellations of operations, medical procedures and consultations with specialists. In addition to the impact on health, the economic impact of the crisis was strongly felt by local small and medium-sized enterprises, which suffered significant losses as they could not function properly and, in some cases, had to close their shops during the water cut. First, ESSAL informed the Los Lagos Region Health Secretariat that the situation was under control and that service would be restored within 24 hours. But the situation proved more complicated and the water supply was interrupted for more than 10 days, during which Osorno residents, as well as institutions providing essential services to the city – hospitals, health centres, dialysis centres and retirement homes – were deprived of their drinking water supply. trigger a major health crisis.

Since September 2013, Philippe Andrau has been Group General Counsel at SUEZ, where he leads a multidisciplinary and international legal team on five continents to serve and support the Group`s businesses and clients, as well as to protect its assets in general. Due to the serious health effects, a health emergency was officially declared on July 12, 2019. During this period, the health crisis worsened due to the late and incomplete installation of alternative water supply points, which should have been set up immediately by ESSAL. In addition, the water supply was inadequate and of poor quality. The water supply was only fully restored on 21 July 2019 and the health emergency had to be extended until 31 August 2019, with the aim remaining to respond to the health emergency. Philippe Andrau began his legal career at Sanofi in 1987 as an M&A lawyer and then headed the bioindustry legal department. The deterioration of sanitation in Chile must be seen in a broader context resulting from privatization. Until the late 1980s, the state was responsible for the provision of these services.

Between 1977 and 1997, the demand for drinking water in urban areas increased from 85.6 per cent to 99.3 per cent. Conversely, since the beginning of the privatization process initiated under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and continued in the 1990s under pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, urban sanitation has slowed down with soaring prices, under the pretext of financing infrastructure and providing sanitation services. For example, Osorno`s customer rates increased by 343.6% between 1998 and 2017, while plumbing companies` revenue growth was 69.8% (up to $448.803 billion in 2018), with gains of nearly 50% ($345.632 billion in 2018). At the same time, residents have seen a gradual decline in the quality of service: although profits have increased, total investment has steadily decreased since 2014.

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