We’re now on week four or five of a relentless national debate about drinking water quality in Venezuela. Everybody, but everybody, has heard the stories about drinking water being unsafe not only in Monagas but throughout the Lago de Valencia watershed.
Now, ask yourself this:
- Can you describe what, specifically, is wrong with the water in the Center-West and in Monagas?
- Can you outline the known health effects of the specific toxic agents alleged to be in the water, in the concentrations actually found in drinking water in those areas?
- Can you explain why existing water treatment plants can’t remove the agents involved?
My guess is that the vast, vast majority of Venezuelan media consumers can’t answer those questions, and the reason is simple: the media has overwhelmingly chosen to cover the stupid political fight over reporting on water quality issues, rather than…reporting on water quality issues!
Perhaps it’s not so surprising: reporting on the idiot controversy over the government’s thuggish gagging attempts is within any Venezuelan political hack’s confort zone, whereas actual public health reporting is hard, technical, subject to qualifications and not something you can really wing if you don’t know what you’re talking about. And so we get reams and reams of coverage on the government’s attempts to stop us writing about water quality…and almost nothing specific, substantive and substantiated on water quality!
It would just take a smidgeon of originality, of reportorial daring, of plain old gumption and outside-the-box thinking to commission some lab reports on water quality in Valencia and build a story around the results, or to identify some people whose health has been affected and tell their stories, or to even just explain the known health effects of some of the toxins involved. Somehow, such reporting is vanishingly rare.
All kinds of props go to Edison Durán and his Movement for Water Quality, who’ve been doing the yeoman’s work on documenting what’s specifically wrong with water in the central region. It’s too bad the media love to write about writing about your work, but hate to write about your work.