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No scarcity of water in Brazil, but plenty of issues

No scarcity of water in Brazil, but plenty of issues

Prof. Elias Wolff, during the theological consultation of EWN-WCC, theme: Towards Water Justice. Helen Putsman/WCC

10 March 2015


In Brazil where Elias Wolf is a university professor in ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, there is an abundance of water.

“There is no scarcity of water in Brazil,” says Dr Wolff. “A massive 12 percent of the fresh water in the world is in Brazil.”

He refers to Latin American history, noting that Christian faith and social commitment are mutually dependent.

“From the 1960s, many Latin American theologians took a social perspective in reflection of the Christian faith and the Church.

“From this developed ‘liberation theology’,” Dr Wolff notes.

In the late 20th century, "liberation theology" has transformed into an eco-theology.

“Issues concerning the human, social and environmental ecology need to be reflected theologically,” says the Brazilian teacher.

He rattles off challenges of environmental scarcity such as deforestation, pollution of air, oceans and rivers; the death of countless species of plants and animals along with global warming.

“This requires a theology in view of eco-justice,” says the theologian.

Latin America has around 660 million people, made up of different ethnic groups and cultures, impacted by the arrival of settlers.

Dr Wolff cites Brazil, with the bulk of the world's fresh water having 70 per cent of its rivers polluted with all types of industrial waste, and chemicals.

In addition, 50 percent of households have no sewage, and 80 per cent of sewage flows into rivers without any treatment, while 40 per cent of tap water from Brazilian homes in Brazil is unfit for drinking.

“As a result, 20 per cent of the population has no access to drinking water,” Dr Wolff rues. “Overcoming social disparities requires cooperation on water without the voracity of privatization capital that endangers millions of lives.”

Read also: Water, Image of the God of life. This reflection by Rev. Prof. Dr Elias Wolff was published on the EWN website as part of the Seven Weeks for Water 2015.

A group of 17 people, most of them theologians, but also lawyers and an engineer met at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, Switzerland, in a theological consultation on water justice from 8-11 December 2014 to develop a theological framework for water justice. Some of the group told Peter Kenny about the issue of water in the context of their regions, nations and local areas. So did some of the students currently studying at Bossey. The interviews will be published in the EWN website over the coming weeks.