Private initiatives in Finland and South Africa: Proposals for waterworks by von Nottbeck and Marks

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    There are several striking similarities in the water history of Tampere, Finland and Johannesburg, South Africa. At about same time in both these cities, wealthy entrepreneurs from abroad envisaged the construction of private waterworks. Currently, similar trends are afoot in the global water sector. There are a number of schools of thought on plans to promote the privatization of water services and this article shows that the idea is by no means new. The case studies under investigation are the city of Tampere and the initiatives of Wilhelm von Nottbeck (1816–1890); and those in Johannesburg, the brainchild of Sammy Marks (1843–1920). In Tampere, the construction of a water supply system was neglected until fire raised the issue in 1865. It was then that industrialist von Nottbeck proposed building a water pipe system. He suggested that a wooden pipeline be constructed from the upper lake to the marketplace. It is clear that von Nottbeck planned to turn the water supply system into a project where any risks would be borne by the City Board. Meanwhile, in distant South Africa, Sammy Marks was reasoning that it was only the Vaal River that could provide sufficient water to meet Johannesburg’s needs. Water from the river would be easy to pump to the town, and Marks estimated it would be reasonably cheap to do so if waste coal from the nearby colliery was used as the source of power. Although there are similarities between these two proposals there are also several differences.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-43
    Number of pages15
    JournalWater History
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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