Monthly Archives: July 2011

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7/27/2011 Weatherwatch: Sahara dust

The Acropolis Hill, Athens, hazed by a massive cloud of Saharan dust that covered the city in the spring of 2008. It was the height of the swinging sixties, and the papers were full of strange tales, but the events of 1 July 1968 were weirder than usual. A stifling summer heat wave finally ended as a depression swept across southern Britain, bringing cooler conditions and rain. But the nature of the rain caused people to take a second look: instead of the usual transparent stuff, this was coloured brick-red. After the rains stopped, there came another big surprise: every available surface was covered with a thin layer of sand, varying in colour from red through orange to yellow.

This was the most extreme recorded example of a fairly regular phenomenon: the fall of “Sahara dust”. This occurs when sandstorms in North Africa push sand up into the atmosphere, which is then swept northwards by the wind until it drops, usually along with rain, here in Britain, 1,500 miles to the north. In 1984, there were falls of Sahara dust as late as mid-November, during an unseasonal warm spell when temperatures reached 19C. These southerly winds brought another surprise: four pallid swifts, the paler version of our own familiar summer visitor, were seen by birdwatchers in scattered locations from Wales to Kent. As aerial feeders, the pallid swifts had been caught up in the same airstream as the sand. Before this unusual multiple sighting, there had only been two previous records of this North African species in Britain.

7/21/2011 Navajos: Peabody Coal Mine Draining Region's Water Supply

7/21/2011 CENSORED NEWS BLOG: Navajos: New Report: Peabody Coal Mine Draining Region’s Water Supply By Black Mesa Water Coalition, Dine’ CARE, To’ Nizhoni Ani, Center for Biologial Diversity and Sierra Club Photo by Leslie Mano Cockrum: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A massive coal-mining facility on Black Mesa has a much more damaging effect to a vital local water supply, according to a new report released today. A hydrology study, prepared by Dr. Daniel Higgins (PhD in Arid Lands Resource Sciences from the University of Arizona) program demonstrates that after four decades of coal mine groundwater withdrawals, mine-related impacts to the Navajo Aquifer (N-aquifer) far exceed those that have been acknowledged or recognized by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), the lead Regulatory Authority for Peabody Coal’s massive mining facility on Black Mesa. The N-aquifer is an important source of water below Black Mesa that feeds sacred springs and is used by thousands as drinking water.

“Despite what these models predicted years ago, I think any reasonable person who looks at the data would conclude that the rates of water level decline at Kayenta and spring discharge decline at Moenkopi are directly related to Peabody’s groundwater withdrawals,” said Higgins, who studies the interactions of complex social-ecological systems and spent more than five years investigating Black Mesa’s groundwater development – the focus of his dissertation research.

“This report reaffirms the fact that coal industry continues to materially damage our aquifer with impunity,” said Marshall Johnson of the Navajo grassroots organization, To’ Nizhoni Ani, or Beautiful Water Speaks. “The truth is that Peabody has yet to prove that the mine is not damaging the aquifer and OSM has yet to hold Peabody accountable. Instead of addressing the health of the aquifer, OSM works on creating new standards each time that have been exceeded so for us, it’s disappointing watching a federal agency deliberately sidestep its responsibilities.”

Wahleah Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition said, “OSM should not award Peabody a permit renewal until a thorough investigation is conducted on the findings of this report on the N-Aquifer.”

“Dr. Higgins’ report comes at a critical time while OSM is preparing an Environmental Assessment to analyze the impacts of the Kayenta Mine. OSM officials now need to address and respond to this report before they let Peabody off the hook for damage to the Navajo aquifer,” said Nicole Horseherder of To’ Nizhoni Ani and a Black Mesa resident where she depends on the N-Aquifer for her home and ranch. “The Obama Administration needs to restore environmental justice for local communities and hold Peabody accountable for damaging that most basic human right—the right to drink in perpetuity pure, clean water.”

“We have known for a long time that water withdrawals have been impacting local springs and wildlife but this report puts the burden on OSM to demonstrate to local communities why mine operations should be allowed to continue,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Higgins’ report was submitted by the OSM by Black Mesa Water Coalition, Dine CARE, To’Nizhoni Ani, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club as a supplement to comments previously submitted to the agency in 2010. OSM is preparing an Environmental Assessment that will be available for public review in August of 2011. The groups have asked OSM to hold a meeting within the next 30 days to discuss the report’s findings.

Contacts: Daniel Higgins, PhD, 520-243-9450
Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition, 928-637-5281
Andy Bessler, Sierra Club, 928-774-6103
Anna Frazier, Dine CARE, 928-401-0382
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 928-310-6713

7/27/2011 IEN gets ready for live broadcast at Three Affiliated Tribes

7/27/2011 Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) 16th Protecting Mother Earth Gathering “Energy, Climate, Water and the Importance of Health and Culture.” NEW TOWN, N. D. — Indigenous Peoples from the Americas are preparing for the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Protecting Mother Earth Conference, Thursday through Sunday. Native Americans are arriving on the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in New Town, North Dakota. Shown in this brief video, Earthcycles sets up a wind generator and solar panels, which is now providing power to the Earthcycles remote studio. Listen to the live broadcast — with speakers, panel discussions and interviews, beginning at 8 am each morning and continuing through the evening: Thursday 8 am to 8 pm; Friday 8 am to 8 pm, Saturday; 8 am throughout the evening talent show and Sunday 8 am to 2 pm. To join the conversation on the Internet, e-mail: Listen at 87.9 FM or on the web at Earthcycles July 28 – 31, 2011, Four Bears Park/Little Shell Powwow Grounds New Town, North Dakota, Hosted by Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations Community Members More information: IEN: Listen at:

7/26/2011 Lawsuit Prompts Full Environmental Review of Uranium Mining Threatening Dolores, San Miguel Rivers in Colorado Feds Still Refuse to Revoke Leases Awarded Under Flawed Analysis

7/26/2011 Center for Native Ecosystems and Center for Biological Diversity: “Lawsuit Prompts Full Environmental Review of Uranium Mining Threatening Dolores, San Miguel Rivers in Colorado: Feds Still Refuse to Revoke Leases Awarded Under Flawed Analysis”: Contacts: Josh Pollock, Center for Native Ecosystems, (303) 546-0214 x 2 and Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713 and Hilary White, Sheep Mountain Alliance, (970) 728-3729: DURANGO, Colo.— In response to a lawsuit from conservation groups, the Department of Energy has finally agreed to conduct a full, in-depth analysis of the environmental impacts of uranium mining and milling in southwestern Colorado. The environmental impact statement will examine the effects of DOE’s uranium-leasing program on 42 square miles of public land near the Dolores and San Miguel rivers.

In a lawsuit that’s still pending, the conservation groups challenged the Department’s current leasing program for not complying with the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act. Although DOE now concedes the need for a new and expanded environmental review, the Department continues to implement the program under the original flawed approval. In fact, it has awarded or renewed 31 leases for mining-related activities on 25,000 acres.

“The Department of Energy knows its previous environmental reviews fell short and yet leasing for uranium operations has moved forward. That badly flawed approach jeopardizes human health, wildlife and two of the West’s most precious rivers,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The feds’ refusal to revoke approvals and leases they’ve admitted are flawed is inherently dishonest and will keep everyone in court.”

Uranium mining and milling resulting from the lease program will deplete Colorado River basin water and threaten to pollute rivers with uranium, selenium, ammonia, arsenic, molybdenum, aluminum, barium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, vanadium and zinc. Selenium and arsenic contamination in the Colorado River basin from abandoned uranium-mining operations have been implicated in the decline of four endangered Colorado River fish species and may be impeding their recovery.

“Even small amounts of some of these pollutants, like selenium, can poison fish, accumulate in the food chain and cause deformities and reproductive problems for endangered fish, ducks, river otters and eagles,” said Josh Pollock of the Center for Native Ecosystems. “It is irresponsible for the Department of Energy to put fish and wildlife at risk by allowing uranium leases without adequate analysis of necessary protections to prevent pollution.”

“Combined with the activities in the DOE leasing tracts, the impacts of new mining on unpatented claims in the area and the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in Paradox Valley all add up to serious new concerns for water quality,” said Hilary White of the Sheep Mountain Alliance. “We have to understand and mitigate existing contamination problems in the area before the government allows new mining to ramp up.”

The Colorado Environmental Coalition, Information Network for Responsible Mining, Center for Native Ecosystems, Center for Biological Diversity and Sheep Mountain Alliance sued the Department of Energy and Bureau of Land Management in July 2008 for approving the program without analyzing the full environmental impacts from individual uranium-mining leases and for failing to ensure protection of threatened and endangered species prior to authorizing the program. The groups are represented by attorneys Travis Stills of the Energy Minerals Law Center and Jeff Parsons at the Western Mining Action Project.

DOE will take public comment on its new environmental impact statement until Sept. 9. Comments will also be accepted at public meetings Aug. 8-11 in Telluride, Naturita, San Juan County, Utah, and Montrose.

7/21/2011 BBC News: Climate change threatens Peace, UN official warns

7/21/2011 BBC News: Climate change ‘threatens peace’, UN official warns:Climate change poses a major threat to future peace and security, a senior UN official has warned. Achim Steiner from the UN Environment Programme said climate change would also “exponentially” increase the scale of natural disasters. His comments followed a UN declaration of famine in parts of Somalia. Meanwhile, Russia rejected a Security Council statement backed by Western nations which asserted the link, but later agreed to a weaker text.

The Russian envoy Alexander Pankin said he was sceptical about the implications of putting climate change on the security council’s agenda.

Security Council members finally agreed to a text which spoke of the “possible security implications” of climate change.
‘Exponential growth’

Mr Steiner warned that an increase in the frequency of natural disasters across the globe could prove a major challenge in the coming decades.

He said recent crises, such as in Somalia, illustrate that “our capacity to handle these kinds of events is proving a challenge, particularly if they occur simultaneously and start affecting, for instance, global food markets, regional food security issues, displacing people, creating refugees across borders”.

“This is a good day today for climate security” Peter Wittig German Ambassador: “Clearly the international community – if the scenarios in climate change for the future come true – will face an exponential growth of these kinds of extreme events,” he added.

His comments came as the Security Council formally debated the environment for the first time in four years, with Germany pressing for the first-ever council statement linking climate change to global peace and security.

Diplomats said there were intense negotiations between Germany and Russia, which initially opposed any council action, before a statement on the issue was agreed to.

Speaking as negotiations were continuing, Mr Pankin argued that the move was unnecessary and opposed by many countries.

“We believe that involving the Security Council in a regular review of the issue of climate change will not bring any added value whatsoever and will merely lead to further increased politicisation of this issue and increased disagreements between countries,” he said.

However US Ambassador Susan Rice said that the council had an “essential responsibility to address the clear-cut peace and security implications of a changing climate” and said all countries should be demanding action.

She also called failed attempts to reach consensus earlier in the day “pathetic” and “shortsighted”.

Somalia famine: The final statement expressed “concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security”.

It also requested UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to include information on possible climate change impacts in his regular reports on global trouble-spots.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig welcomed the outcome, describing it as a “good day today for climate security”.

“We had quite extensive discussions,” Mr Wittig said. “We wanted to get everyone on board. And we did.”

The council had failed to agree on whether climate change was an issue of world peace in 2007, when Britain brought up the issue.

The move came after two regions of Somalia were declared a famine, after the worst drought in six decades.

Conditions for famine include more than 30% of children being acutely malnourished, and four children out of every 10,000 dying daily.

More than 10 million people have been affected by the crisis across east Africa.

US EPA Public Comment period open: US EPA News Releases – Water Update on Waters of the U.S. Draft Guidance

6/27/2011 US EPA News Releases – Water Update on Waters of the U.S. Draft Guidance Contact Information: Enesta Jones,, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355: WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have extended the public comment period by 30 days for the draft guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act. In response to requests from state and local officials, as well as other stakeholders, EPA and the Corps will take additional comment until July 31, 2011 on this important draft guidance that aims to protect U.S. waters. These waters are critical for the health of the American people, the economy and ecosystems in communities across the country. This change in the public comment period will not impact the schedule for finalizing the guidance or alter the intent to proceed with a rulemaking.

Public input received will be carefully considered as the agencies make final decisions regarding the guidance. These comments will also be very helpful as the agencies prepare a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The original 60-day public comment period was originally set to expire on July 1, 2011. The agencies will be publishing a notice of this 30-day extension in the Federal Register.

More information:

7/19/2011 Nuclear Industry Must Be Transparent on Uranium Mining, Carbon Output Before New Plants

7/19/2011 The Energy Collective: Nuclear Industry Must Be Transparent on Uranium Mining, Carbon Output Before New Plants by David Thorpe: The nuclear industry has to clean up its supply chain, be as ethical, accountable and transparent as possible, and come clean on its true carbon impact, if it is to earn our trust. The UK is considering supporting the building of a new generation of nuclear plants, and the Treasury’s Carbon Price Support mechanism could result in nuclear companies receiving £1bn of the public’s money via increased electricity bills.

Yet the basis for and consequence of this step are shrouded in mystery due to the opacity of the industry. What we do know, however, based on two reports which I discuss below, leaves significant grounds for concern.

In this piece I will discuss firstly uranium mining and then the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the nuclear power life cycle before asking – if this industry has nothing to hide – why isn’t it more transparent?

The Scourge of Uranium Mining

Uranium mining around the world has increased greatly in the recent years. In particular, many African countries have been receiving much attention from the mining industry: in Niger, Mauritania, Zambia, Malawi, Gabon, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, the Central African Republic, and elsewhere, uranium exploration and/or exploitation projects are currently in development.

These and other countries in the developing world are keen to deal with the multinational mining companies because of their desire for economic development. In turn, the lack of strict mining and environmental laws, and the very limited regulatory and enforcement regimes present there are all factors that help to make these countries more attractive to the mining companies.

A new report – Uranium from Africa. Mitigation of uranium mining impacts on society and environment by industry and governments, by the Dutch research organisations WISE and SOMO – compares today’s practices in the mining sector in Africa, with those carried out in Australia and Canada, although even there – despite good laws, a strong judicial system, powerful NGOs, and democratic governments – uranium mining practices still threaten indigenous societies and natural protected areas in Canada and Australia.

Specifically, it examines mines in only three countries, taking them to be representative of the rest: Namibia, South Africa and the Central African Republic.

The companies involved in these mines include Rio Tinto, Paladin, Areva – which has interests in building new plants in the UK – First Uranium, and AngloGold Ashanti.

The survey found the following catalogue of failures:

environmental pollution uncontrolled at many sites

citizens and workers remaining uninformed about their radiation exposure

radiation control only carried out by the mining company

local communities not having a voice in far-stretching decisions about their land and health

high-impact mining operations located in sensitive desert regions and natural protected areas

payments not being reported

documents and contracts remaining unpublished

agreements known only by companies and government

Environmental Impact Assessments being released after the date of final comments by the public and riddled with inaccuracies

abandoned mining sites remaining unmanaged.

While some companies are developing serious corporate social and environmental responsibilities programmes, others seem not to ignore these issues completely, or simply make a slight effort to greenwash their operations.

The African governments and institutions all seem to be lacking the necessary knowledge and resources to govern issues as hazardous as uranium mining.

Alarming reports from NGOs, international and national, in all the African states the researchers visited, showed that mitigation of uranium mining impacts is insufficient.

They saw no evidence that tailings will be rehabilitated in such a way that their enduring polluting effects, which last for tens of thousands of years, will not occur.

Namibia, after decades of mining, lacks proper laws, and fails to protect its people and environment.

South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator, which is supposed to issue licenses and is responsible for radiation control as an additional task, is, the researchers found, too small, too ineffective, and has too many tasks to be a reliable institution for radiation control.

The Central African Republic – unstable, unequipped, undeveloped – tells its population not to worry, but was unable to provide evidence of being in control of the consequences of uranium mining, and in many cases mitigation measures do not even exist.

It is because it is cheaper and easier to mine in a situation like this, that companies which supply uranium to developed countries choose these developing countries in which to operate.

Lack of information, transparency and accountability prevail throughout the industry. These are crucial factors that prevent a population in a country from properly profiting from their natural resources.

There is even evidence of alleged corruption in some instances, although this cannot always be proven because of the complete lack of transparency.

Dealing with a type of mining so hazardous, and with very specific and extremely long-term effects, requires at the least excellent laws, excellent law enforcement, disciplined, knowledgeable and dedicated governments and institutions, a strong civil society, and a healthy civil society. All of these factors are lacking in all three African countries.

The report does congratulate Rio Tinto and Anglo Gold Ashanti for beginning to develop extensive Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility programmes.

AREVA, though, is still highly centralised and is giving little attention to local issues such as stakeholder communication and public participation.

It seemed to be only lightly engaged in mitigation measures, which seems surprising for a large nuclear energy company partly owned by the French government.

The other companies perform very poorly.

Even in Canada and Australia there is insufficient research to find out whether individual deaths can be attributed to having worked in a uranium mine. Hardly any work has been done in this area. This means that governments and mining companies can deny responsibility with little difficulty.

In the UK, much of our uranium actually originates in Kazakhstan. On March 23 this year, the BBC Radio 4 programme Costing the Earth visited a mine in that country, where it also found the environmental regulations to be almost non-existent, so that the government could reap foreign exchange at minimal financial cost in maintaining environmental safety and the health of its workers and those living near the mines.

Would any of this be tolerated if uranium mining was happening in this country? And shouldn’t we be be legislating to make our own industry behave as if it were?

If we compare this behaviour to the degree of environmental care and public consultation demanded of, say, a power plant or mining operation in the UK, we can see that it is only because it is kept out of our sight that we are led to tolerate it.

Apart from the moral argument that it is our duty to look after other human beings who produce resources that make our lives comfortable, and the environment which sustains them, there is an economic argument for improving performance in the uranium supply chain.

In Germany and South Africa the cost of rehabilitating polluted areas is high. In Australia such attempts have failed. Mining companies will, if pressed, only foot the bill for a few decades of rehabilitation and monitoring at most. Yet the damage can last for hundreds of thousands of years.

Companies involved in nuclear power in this country must be made to publish in their annual reports the origins of the fuels which they use in their power stations, so that the public – not to mention shareholders – can hold them to account and be sure that they are taking their responsibilities seriously.

The Carbon Impact of Nuclear Power

The main argument behind the nuclear renaissance is that nuclear power is low carbon.If this were so, you would expect there to be comprehensive data to back up this claim. Unfortunately, this, too, seems to be lacking.

There is but one reliable study which has examined all of the existing studies on the life-cycle carbon impact of nuclear power stations. This is a paper from August 2008 by B.K. Sovacool, Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions for nuclear power: A critical survey, published in Energy Policy, Volume 36, Issue 8, pp. 2950-2963.

It shows that compared to the renewable energy sources, nuclear electricity generation performs worse in terms of carbon emissions (see table below).

Sovacool examined 103 lifecycle studies, but found that 81% had methodological shortcomings.

Of the remaining 19% of studies that were relatively up to date, accessible, and methodologically explicit, they varied greatly in their comprehensiveness, and so are not comparable.

Studies differed in whether they assessed future emissions for a few individual reactors or past emissions for the global nuclear fleet; assumed existing technologies or those under development; and presumed whether the electricity needed for mining and enrichment came from fossil fuels, other nuclear plants, renewable energy technologies, or a combination thereof.

The results varied from a ludicrously low 1.36gCO2e/kWh to a high 255gCO2e/kWh. Sovacool therefore takes a mean value – 66gCO2e/kWh – purely arbitrarily, for the sake of comparison with other technologies. I attach this comparison table at the end for reference – it is very interesting.

Socacool found that there is no identifiable industry standard which provides guidance for utilities and companies operating nuclear facilities about how to report their carbon-equivalent emissions.

Most studies, he found, obscure the complexity and variation inherent in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the nuclear lifecycle rather than explaining it. This is especially true of those on both sides of the nuclear debate attempting to make nuclear energy look cleaner – or dirtier – than it really is.

My conclusion is the same as Sovacool’s: that regulators, utilities, and operators must develop formal standardisation and reporting criteria for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with nuclear lifecycles similar to those already in existence – that provide general guidance for environmental management and lifecycle assessment, such as ISO 14040 and 14044 – but adapted exclusively to the nuclear industry.

These are just two examples of abysmal corporate behaviour. I have not even touched upon the poor track record of the actual cost of nuclear plants – whether construction only, or lifetime – being radically underestimated beforehand.

We are about to embark on a huge gamble by investing billions in the construction of new nuclear power stations.

Surely it is crucial, before we do so, to make sure that such a vital decision is based on truly objective and reliable information, and that we have in place effective monitoring to determine that the expected benefits actually occur, with minimal cost to society, to the environment and to human health?

Below: a comparison of emissions from various electricity generators, from Sovacool (2008). Please note that this table is based on the mean calculated emissions from 19 studies on greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear plants.

Technology Capacity/configuration/fuel Estimate (gCO2e/kWh)
Wind 2.5MW, offshore 9
Hydroelectric 3.1MW, reservoir 10
Wind 1.5MW, onshore 10
Biogas Anaerobic digestion 11
Hydroelectric 300 kW, run-of-river 13
Solar thermal 80MW, parabolic trough 13
Biomass Forest wood Co-combustion with hard coal 14
Biomass Forest wood steam turbine 22
Biomass Short rotation forestry Co-combustion with hard coal 23
Biomass FOREST WOOD reciprocating engine 27
Biomass Waste wood steam turbine 31
Solar PV Polycrystalline silicone 32
Biomass Short rotation forestry steam turbine 35
Geothermal 80MW, hot dry rock 38
Biomass Short rotation forestry reciprocating engine 41
Nuclear Various reactor types 66
Natural gas Various combined cycle turbines 443
Fuel cell Hydrogen from gas reforming 664
Diesel Various generator and turbine types 778
Heavy oil Various generator and turbine types 778
Coal Various generator types with scrubbing 960
Coal Various generator types without scrubbing 1050

About David Thorpe News Editor of Energy and Environmental Management Magazine, the author of Solar Technology, The Earthscan Expert Guide to Using Solar Energy for Heating, Cooling and Electricity, and Sustainable Home Refurbishment: The Earthscan Expert Guide to Retrofitting Homes for Efficiency, and blogger at The Low Carbon Kid

Navajo Nation Presidential Town Hall Meetings

Navajo Nation Presidential Town Hall meeting Forest Lake Chapter Navajo Nation Presidential Town Hall meetings

7/23/2011 IPS: Right to Water Still a Political Mirage

The landmark resolution “Human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation” A/HRC/15/L.14 was adopted by the 192-member General Assembly on Jul. 28 last year, and two months later, was endorsed by the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva. The United States abstained and so did some of the European, as well as industrialised countries. 7/23/2011 Right to Water Still a Political Mirage By Thalif Deen: UNITED NATIONS, Jul 23, 2011 (IPS) – When the international community commemorates the first anniversary of a historic General Assembly resolution recognising the right to water and sanitation as a basic human right, there will be no joyous celebrations in the corridors of the United Nations, come Jul. 28.

“I think member states have been slow to react,” complains a highly- disappointed Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, one of Canada’s largest citizens’ organisations promoting social and economic justice.

“I know my own government has still not endorsed it, and still says – incorrectly – that the General Assembly resolution was not binding,” Barlow told IPS.

The landmark resolution was adopted by the 192-member General Assembly on Jul. 28 last year, and two months later, was endorsed by the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Barlow, a former senior U.N. adviser on water and who chairs the Washington-based Food and Water Watch, said, “I think the most significant progress was the adoption of a second resolution by the Human Rights Council.”

Not only did the second resolution lay out the responsibilities of governments to realise this newly recognised right, because it was based on two existing international treaties, but it also clarified that the General Assembly resolution is now binding, she added.

“The human right to water and sanitation is now as binding as any other (resolution) ever adopted by the United Nations,” Barlow noted.

Still, the resolution proved politically divisive, with 122 countries voting for it, 41 abstaining, but with no negative votes.

The United States abstained and so did some of the European, as well as industrialised countries, including Britain, Australia, Austria, Canada, Greece, Sweden, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland.

But several developing nations, mostly from Africa, also abstained on the vote, siding with rich industrial countries. These included Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Zambia, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

Fleur Anderson, international campaign coordinator for the London- based End Water Poverty, told IPS that despite the U.N. resolution, the water and sanitation crisis has continued for another long year.

“And the problem is not water scarcity or climate change but choices by governments not to fund water and sanitation provision for every community,” she said.

She said millions of ordinary people around the world could have life-changing water services by next year, “and we keep pushing our governments to treat this as the emergency situation which it is.”

Anderson said campaigners for End Water Poverty welcomed the recognition of the right to water and sanitation, and this has led to an increasing number of ordinary people around the world wanting to speak out and claim their right.

But the sanitation Millennium Development Goal (MDG), to reduce by 50 percent the number of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015, is from being reached so far, she noted.

And governments need to take far more bold action and increase spending on sanitation to one percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Otherwise these rights will remain meaningless for the parents of the 4,000 children who die every day from diarrhoea caused by lack of sanitation, said Anderson.

The ‘Sanitation and Water For All’ partnership has the potential to prove a leadership by governments and civil society in providing the increased funding, coordination and better planning needed, but governments and member states need to step up to this challenge.

“If the ‘business as usual’ approach to sanitation continues, the sanitation MDG won’t be met for another 200 years, and this makes a mockery of the fine commitments to the right to water and sanitation,” she added.

John Sauer of Water for People told IPS that from the U.S. perspective, there has been a step forward in the appointment of a Global Water Coordinator, Christian Holmes.

Also they took another step by signing the Memoradum of Understanding (MOU) with the World Bank on World Water Day. These are two good steps, he said.

Sauer said while certainly more progress is needed, some countries have taken this forward.

For example, in Liberia, they’ve done a base line survey of all of their rural water points. The government of Liberia and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme used a monitoring and evaluation platform called FLOW, which Water For People helped to create as a part of this base line survey process.

This has helped feed into a national plan that is right now before the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first woman president and a former assistant administrator of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).

“All of this has been supported by the new coalition Sanitation and Water for All, which I think is where you should look to ask and see progress of the implementation on the Human Right to Water,” Sauer said.

It is particularly important that Liberia has taken all of these steps given that the president of Liberia is head of the African Water Ministers Council. She is certainly trying to set a good example, said Sauer.

Asked what civil society plans to do in ensuring the implementation of the U.N. resolution, Barlow told IPS, “Our global water justice community has been working hard on the next steps.”

“Essentially we are working to create a domestic plan of action in as many countries as we can and most will include lobbying their governments to write its plan of action for submission to the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and for this plan to clearly spell out how the government will meet the three required obligations (to respect, to protect, and to fulfil),” she said.

The Council of Canadians also plans to campaign governments to adopt the right to water and sanitation into their own constitutions, thereby removing this fundamental right from the whims of changing political parties.

Additionally, the Council seeks to enlarge the traditional view of a human right from the individually-centred one, currently used at the United Nations, to one that is more inclusive of cultural and collective realities.

“We also want the right to water and sanitation to include the rights of water itself and the rights of watersheds to be protected from extractive industries and corporate and government pollution,” Barlow said.

The Council will also target women and indigenous peoples, as well as the most marginalised, for priority services.

It will campaign globally for the wealthy governments of the North to increase their foreign aid and target it to water and wastewater infrastructure investment in the global South and continue to promote water and wastewater delivery systems that are public and not-for- profit.


Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs: Water is a Human Right

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs: Water is a Human Right: Water is considered a basic human right according to many international treaties, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. But in CANADA, running water is not available to INDIGENOUS PEOPLE living in Manitoba. The Island Lake area of four reserves has a population of 10,000 and half of its homes DO NOT HAVE RUNNING WATER. The Indigenous people of the Island Lake region have less clean water than people living in refugee camps overseas. This isn’t happening in the third world, it’s happening in one of the WORLD’S RICHEST COUNTRIES.

Indigenous people in Canada live in third world conditions and MOST CANADIANS are NOT even AWARE of it.

If you CARE ABOUT PEOPLE in this country, if you are ASHAMED OF OUR GOVERNMENT and the way it treats Indigenous people, then take a stand.

Why should CANADA’S INDIGENOUS people be treated like THIRD WORLD CITIZENS?

Join us in the “WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT” campaign to make Canada adhere to the same standards the United Nations says are rights FOR ALL.

We have prepaid postcards to the Prime Minister of Canada using the image above. They are available at AMC, 2nd floor, 275 Portage Ave., Winnipeg. You can also sign the online petition on the right or join our facebook group, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
For More Information:
Winnipeg Free Press: No Running Water

Is an investigative series of the lack of running water on First Nations Communities in the Island Lake region of Manitoba, for full story and details please visit:
United nation general assembly declares access to clean water and sanitation is a human right:

28 July 2010 – Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, the General Assembly declared today, voicing deep concern that almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water.

UN News Centre
Winnipeg Free Press – Poor sanitation, poor health

(story on Jacob Flett, child in postcard campaign photo)


United Nations News Centre

1 October 2010 – The main United Nations body dealing with human rights has affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties, and that States have the primary responsibility to ensure the full realization of this and all other basic human rights.
While the General Assembly declared in July that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, this is the first time that the Human Rights Council has declared itself on the issue….

Right to water and sanitation is legally binding, affirms key UN body
World Health Organization
Assembly of First Nations
Council for Canadians: Acting for Social Justice
Right to Water

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