Category Archives: Water And Sanitation

7/27/2011 UN General Assembly Examines Vital Human Right to Safe Drinking Water, Adequate Sanitation

7/27/2011 United Nations General Assembly GA/11123 Sixty-fifth General Assembly Plenary 114th Meeting Examines Vital Human Right to Safe Drinking Water, Adequate Sanitation: ‘Water Is the Mother of All Rights,’ Says Bolivia’s Leader, Opposing Attempts To Privatize It; Venezuela Says Wrong to Flaunt Resources While Millions Lack Them. While some strides had been made to increase access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation — now regarded as a fundamental human right — efforts must be redoubled to provide access to safe water to the more than 1 billion people without it and basic sanitation services for the more than 2 billion still in need, urged experts and delegates in the General Assembly this afternoon.

Against the backdrop of the current drought-driven emergency in the Horn of Africa, where millions were struggling to survive, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Assembly that, at any one time, close to half of all people in developing countries were suffering from health problems caused by poor water and sanitation. Lack of access to adequate sanitation adversely affected children’s health and development, while, conversely, good sanitation systems could boost efforts in the field of health — including the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria — and increase school attendance and improve performance, especially among girls.

But the Secretary-General was quick to note that ensuring the more accessible, more equitable provision of water did not mean that water should be assigned no economic value. “Let us be clear: a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free,” he stressed. States bore the primary responsibility to make clean water and sanitation both affordable and available to all, he added, urging Governments that had not yet done so to include the rights to water and sanitation services in their national constitutions without delay.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss agreed that the situation was urgent. “We must, day by day, reiterate our collective will and determination to achieve our objective,” he stressed, referring to the rapidly approaching 2015 deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals — which included one specific target to halve the global population without access to safe water or sanitation.

In a positive development, he pointed to a growing international recognition of water as human right, as well as of the fact that water underlay most other internationally agreed development goals. The General Assembly, in its resolution 64/292 of July 2010, had acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation were integral to the realization of all human rights. Two months later, the Human Rights Council reaffirmed that position, additionally concluding that the right to water and sanitation was part of existing international law. It was derived from the basic right to a dignified life, among others.

More than 1 billion people still lived without access to safe water, and more than 2 billion lacked basic sanitation services, he noted, echoing the concerns of the Secretary-General. Many challenges hampered the realization of that right, including the absence of functional institutions and necessary technical resources. But more must be done by States, and those in a position to support them, to overcome such obstacles.

“Water is the mother of all rights,” said Evo Morales Ayma, the President of Bolivia, who also addressed the Assembly today. It was the responsibility of the State to guarantee access to that resource, which was so vital to life. Bolivia, to that end, had enshrined the right to water in its Constitution, and had invested $100 million to projects providing water to people, their crops and their livestock. It was critical that States take the opportunity provided by the current debate to share their experiences and to learn from each other’s stories.

Water should not be seen as a luxury as it was in some countries, Mr. Morales said. He condemned attempts to make water a private commodity. Similarly, several representatives in the course of the meeting called for water and sanitation to be better distributed among countries that were “polarized” in their enjoyment of human rights. The representative of Venezuela, for example, said that the fact that a rich minority of the world monopolized and flaunted basic resources — while millions lacked them — was unacceptable. Water belonged to all, he stressed.

Meanwhile, other delegates pointed to particular situations of drought or deprivation experienced by their own countries. The representative of Djibouti, one of the most water-deficient in the world, said that today’s meeting was poignant as it was taking place at the time of one of the worst droughts in the history of his home region. Djibouti itself risked running out of water in the next 25 years, he said. Like so many other countries, it lacked the resources and infrastructure to desalinate water or to distribute it widely. He urged the international community to take action to reverse those trends.

Also addressing the Assembly today was Catarina de Albuquerque, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, who appealed to Member States to ensure that that right and non-discriminatory access to it was built into the development framework to be pursued following 2015. There were many technical and resource challenges, she said, but political will was the most important element. Delegates throughout the meeting echoed that statement.

Also participating were the representatives of the European Union, Brazil, Spain, Peru, United States, France, Egypt, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Germany, El Salvador, Sweden, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nicaragua, Madagascar, Senegal, South Africa, Hungary, Switzerland, Australia, Burkina Faso, Maldives and Morocco.

The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 28 July, at 10:00 a.m.

Background

The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider the human right to water and sanitation, during which it was expected to hear an address by Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia.

Opening Remarks

JOSEPH DEISS, President of the General Assembly, recalled that in July 2010 the General Assembly had adopted a resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, an important first step towards the explicit acknowledgment of that resource as a human right. It derived from the basic right to a dignified life, he said, recalling as well that the seventh Millennium Development Goal called for the halving, by 2015, of the population with no access to safe water or sanitation. That goal was crucial for the achievement of all other goals, as well.

After 10 years, progress towards meeting that target remained inadequate, he said. More than 1 billion people still lived without access to safe water, and more than 2 billion lacked basic sanitation services. Many challenges hampered the realization of that right, including the absence of functional institutions and necessary technical resources. “We must, day by day, reiterate our collective will and determination to achieve our objective,” he stressed, referring to the rapidly approaching 2015 deadline. He hoped that the upcoming Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development would give new impetus to that mission.

Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that, at any one time, close to half of all people in developing countries were suffering from health problems caused by poor water and sanitation. Together, unclean water and poor sanitation were the second largest killers of children. While important legal advances had recently been made by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council when they recognized, respectively, the right to water and sanitation and the fact that that right was derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, the task now was to translate that commitment into specific obligations, both at the international and national levels.

“Let us be clear: a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free,” stressed Mr. Ban. Rather, it meant that water and sanitation services should be affordable and available for all. States must do everything in their power to make that happen. It was not acceptable that poor slum-dwellers paid five or even 10 times as much for their water as wealthy residents of the same cities, or that wastewater from slums, farms and industry was polluting the environment.

Last month the General Assembly had launched the sustainable sanitation “Drive to 2015”, at which time, he recalled, he had spoken about how lack of access to good sanitation adversely affected children’s health and development, how good sanitation could boost efforts in the field of health — including the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria — and how it could increase school attendance and improve performance, especially among girls. He urged Governments that had not yet done so to include the right to water and sanitation services in their national constitutions without delay.

Finally, he drew the attention of the Assembly to the current emergency in the Horn of Africa, where millions were struggling to survive. There, short-term relief must be linked to long-term sustainability; namely, an agricultural transformation that improved the resilience of rural people, especially pastoralists, and minimized the scale of any future crisis.

“Water is the mother of all rights,” said EVO MORALES Ayma, President of Bolivia, as he took the floor next. He asked Presidents and other leaders to respect that right as a basis for all others, and said that the United Nations was a forum where significant progress could be made towards implementing those rights.

Water must stop being the subject of private business, he stressed, and instead must become a public service. It must not be subjected to trade and to companies that could exploit it for financial gain. The international community must implement policies to that end. Human rights, like other rights, had adversaries — policies and problems, which led to inequality and brought about injustices. The enemy of water, first and foremost, was global warming.

In Bolivia, he said, the population was suffering from the worst droughts and frosts ever seen; those crises caused forced migration and continued to be a major challenge throughout the country. In response, the country was implementing policies that underscored the right to safe water and sanitation. It was the responsibility of the State to guarantee access to that resource, which was so vital to life. Bolivia had enshrined the right to water in its Constitution. It had invested $100 million to priority projects, providing water to human beings and for the support of their crops and livestock. Today, it was critical for States to share similar experiences and to learn from each other’s stories.

Water should not be seen as a luxury, as it was in some countries, he continued. Together, a balance among all human beings must be sought. The United Nations had taken important steps through its resolutions recognizing the right to water and sanitation, and referendums on the provision of water were being held in some areas of the world. In that vein, he condemned all moves to make water a private commodity, noting that some multinational companies wanted to increase the price of water by up to 500 per cent. He asked the Assembly to build upon its recent actions and to take steps to ensure the provision of safe water and sanitation around the world.

CATARINA DE ALBUQUERQUE, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, asked if measures taken so far would change the urgent situation facing millions around the world. She cited examples of children who had to spend most of the day searching for water and people who had to set up makeshift toilets and who cart away waste. The recognition of water and sanitation as a right could truly make a difference in their cases; it could cement the urgency of the matter, and create a world where people did not get sick by drinking dangerous water or make others sick by defecating into their water. The human rights approach mandated States to gradually make access to clean water and sanitation universal.

She said that the numerous strategies she had researched showed that there was no single path to such universal access and that it was within reach. Reports next year would review progress on the recognition of the right to water and sanitation, as well as on monitoring such aspects as non-discrimination in applying that right. She appealed to Member States to ensure that the human right to water and sanitation and non-discrimination was built into the development framework to be pursued following 2015. There were many technical and resource challenges, but will was the most important element. She called on all stakeholders to use the human rights framework in all their efforts.

Statements

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of Delegation of the European Union, acknowledged the recent recognition of the human right to water by the General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council’s specification that that right was part of the human right to an adequate standard of living. He also recalled that there were different positions within the United Nations membership on the relevant solutions. What was important was that the international community demonstrated united political will to address the global water and sanitation crisis. Despite international recognition of that priority, there was no room for complacency.

The Union, he said, would further prioritize sustainable water management in its future development policy. It and its member countries collaborated closely with African countries on that sector. Last year, the Union had launched a Millennium Development Goals initiative; with a focus on water and sanitation, it provided 1 billion euros for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Describing other efforts by the Union and its members, he said that the Union welcomed the efforts being led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to look at the post-2015 development framework for water and sanitation and it acknowledged the importance of global monitoring of quality, affordability and accessibility of water and sanitation services.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) echoed Mr. Morales call for greater cooperation for access to water and sanitation, which she called a pre-condition for the eradication of poverty. Domestically, her country was working for universal access and, internationally, it was sharing the expertise the expertise it had gained in that effort. The right to water and sanitation was linked to many economic rights, whose full enjoyment must be provided by the State. The central role of human rights’ bodies in gaining respect for that right, and the role of the Special Rapporteur were critical. Rio+20 would allow the international community to revisit the issue in the context of sustainable development.

FERNANDO FERÁNDEZ-ARIAS MINUESA (Spain) said that, as part and parcel of international law, the right to water and sanitation was legally binding. The Human Rights Council had renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation, further endorsing that right. Her work had provided a solid platform for further efforts.

He said that Spain, together with Germany, had drawn the attention of the Human Rights Council to the issue of water and sanitation five years ago. There was a close link between recognizing human rights and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. States needed to fully realize the right by drawing up national action plans that worked closely with poverty reduction programmes. Today, States and other actors understood their obligations; the need now lay in their implementation. Spain was one of 122 States that had voted in favour of that momentous General Assembly resolution of July 2010, and welcomed today’s debate.

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ (Peru) said that a commitment from all Governments was needed to ensure that the right to water was realized around the world. International human rights provisions included special regulations with regard to the right to drinking water. Among other things, those obliged States to provide a certain amount of water to their people for various purposes, as well as for sanitation services, as part of the protection of their standard of living. Water must be managed in an integrated fashion; it was a renewable resource and part of many ecosystems. Its management, therefore, should include a recognition of its worth, the participation of the people in taking decisions relating to it, legal security for investments in water use, and decentralization of water management and efficiency, among other key principles. He also advocated an approach that acknowledged the multidimensional impact of the right to water. The human right to water and sanitation was derived from the right to life, to physical and mental health and to human dignity.

FREDERICK D. BARTON (United States) said that his country was deeply committed to addressing the needs of those around the world who lacked access to safe water and sanitation services. He acknowledged some progress, noting that more than 1.6 billion people had gained access to safe water between 1990 and 2005, but stressed that it had not gone far enough. In March, the United States had supported the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. It believed, first, that Governments should strive to realize the right to water and sanitation, and should expand access to underserved populations. They should also commit sufficient budgetary resources to meeting those goals. Second, States needed to make sure that access was provided on a non-discriminatory basis, including to persons in State custody.

Third, he noted, the right to safe water could be interpreted to mean cooking water, as well as water in sufficient quality and quantity to meet personal hygiene needs. Fourth, Governments should work towards greater transparency and accountability in the provision of water and sanitation, and should strive for the participation of the beneficiaries in that process. He hoped that today’s meeting would push States to take concrete actions to reduce the number of people without access to safe water or adequate sanitation.

EMMANUEL BONNE (France) said it had also supported the resolution adopted by the Assembly one year ago. With the full involvement of all stakeholders concerned, the international community needed to move forward and implement that resolution, as well as that of the Human Rights Council. France, therefore, committed itself, alongside other members of the “Blue Group”, to achieving those goals. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative on sanitation, as well as the work of the Economic Commission for Europe, and the creation of a handbook on equitable access to water, among other recent progress made.

In March 2012, he said, France would host a conference in Marseille on the right to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. States must delineate the roles of different stakeholders and ensure the implementation of rights. He called for a greater role for local authorities in the delivery of water, adding that all public stakeholders must commit to solidarity-based solutions ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all.

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) affirmed that all human rights must be achieved in an integrated manner, and that States must take all necessary measures to extend those rights, including the right to clean water and sanitation. That process should take into account regional differences, without creating “sub-rights” differing from those agreed upon in international instruments. In Egypt’s efforts, funding, climate change, population growth and other factors created challenges. To meet them, the Government had adopted an integrated national plan several years ago. Its implementation was based on decentralization and full cooperation among concerned ministries and national agencies and had wide-ranging goals. The United Nations and the international community must intensify their joint endeavours towards the development of integrated studies in order to address the major challenges, taking account of the particularities of all Member States.

RODOLFO ELISEO BENÍTEZ VERSÓN (Cuba), supporting the statement made by President Morales, said that the recognition of the right to clean water and sanitation was a milestone in helping the hundreds of millions of people who did not have access to those necessities, with millions dying each year from the lack. With climate change, international cooperation must be enhanced and mechanisms must be created that were not subjected to the conditionalities of the international financial institutions. His country had achieved the Millennium Development Goal on water before it was elaborated and had taken many actions to guarantee that human right. Despite that, the country faced many challenges, including the cruel blockade, which had prevented access to the latest technologies. The country did not envisage the privatization of water or other commercial solutions, since the access the water, which was a fundamental right, should not be a source of profit.

MURAD ASKAROV (Uzbekistan) said that no one disputed the truth that the Earth was experiencing an increasing incidence of natural catastrophes. This year, his region had experienced a severe drought, with reduced food production and environmental degradation. The Aral Sea had disappeared and had been replaced by a desert. Partial and ambiguous approaches to the water problem in his region would only lead to further disasters. In Uzbekistan, a programme was being implemented to rationalize water use, with associations of water users for agriculture. Billions invested in improving soil and water extraction from rivers were being reduced. A coordinated effort was needed on the part of States in the region, in line with treaty obligations, on the use of transboundary water sources. His country, in that context, was categorically against the construction of hydro-electric plants in the high reaches of the area. It was agreed that major dams created great risk. Fresh water should be used primarily for food production.

MIGUEL BERGER (Germany), supporting the statement made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the recognition of the human right to clean water and sanitation, the pursuit of which his country had long supported. The big challenge now was to implement that right, and to think in bigger terms than technology. Ignoring any parameters in the integrated effort meant ignoring the people bereft of their rights. He looked forward to discussing the compendium of best practices that would be presented to the Human Rights Council soon. He urged all States to ensure that a human-rights approach was employed when designing national action plans to ensure universal access to clean water and sanitation.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCÍA GONZÁLEZ (El Salvador) said that many human rights could not be enjoyed in the absence of water. That key right was jeopardized by shortages and pollution; every day, 6,000 people, mainly children, died as a result of polluted drinking water. Under the current administration in El Salvador, a series of projects were in place to address water quality. The resolutions discussed today were “major strides forward in international endeavours to support sustainable human development”. Nonetheless, more remained to be done. Availability of water, when it was provided, must be equitable, sustainable, and affordable. It was the duty of States to prevent their people from being cut off from water sources as well as to counter pollution, whose impact on forests should also be considered. Industry, mining and agriculture, as sources of water pollution, must also be regulated.

SIGNE BURGSTALLER (Sweden) said that States must ensure that all people had access to water for personal use, and that water was distributed in a non-discriminatory way. That basic human right, along with the provision of adequate sanitation, was critical for sustainable economic growth. Improving water management at all levels was vital, as was providing access to women, who were often the household members who cared for others and managed a family’s water needs.

CAMILLO GONSALVES (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that his country had been an enthusiastic co-sponsor of the resolution, by which the Assembly had recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right. It had devoted tremendous resources to ensuring the realization of that right. His country’s modest national success in entrenching that human right showed that progress was achievable if political will was present, he stressed.

Too often, he said, Governments left much of the work on water issues to civil society organizations. It was now necessary to operationalize the resolutions, including by providing resources and technical assistance to States working to scale up the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation. He noted, in particular, the urgency of “looming threats” to achieving the right to water, namely, climate change and desertification. In his archipelago, people had often resorted to transported water by ship; water levels had risen, threatening a disastrous effect. The number of States worldwide that were classified as “water-scarce” was estimated to double by 2025. Mainstreaming the issue in the global agenda, therefore, was essential.

MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said that it was critical to put the human being at the centre of development, including human economic and social rights. For that purpose, her country had drawn up national plans for water and sanitation and had opposed the privatization of resources. The plight of those without access to drinking water and sanitation should drive international efforts, with technical assistance for achieving the vital goals. So far, the sector had not garnered the necessary focus. An inclusive, rights-based approach was important. Without creating sustainable models of production and consumption, in addition, it would be impossible to ensure the continuance of life on Earth.

SEM ZINA ANDRIANARIVELO-RAZAFY (Madagascar) said that a year after the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation, it was time to consider implementation, along with the challenges involved. The right must be upheld without any discrimination or exception, and each State must ensure that the right was fulfilled. His country had instituted a code and established a ministry on water issues, to provide for growth, ensure access to drinking water and develop infrastructure for sanitation. Other ministries had complemented those efforts.

He said that the support of Madagascar’s partners for those efforts was essential. Such partnerships had already borne fruit and much progress had been made, but the challenges were still numerous. Every year, there was drought in the south of the country, halving the proportion of those with access to clean water and sanitation. He called for the mobilization of greater resources for the sector and for all Member States to implement the decisions they had taken so that the right becomes “real” and not just a theory.

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), welcoming the recognition of water and sanitation as a human right, said that in his country access to those necessities was at the centre of development policy. Its water programme had already achieved “striking” results. However, water quality and access in rural areas must be improved. To augment progress, there were programmes to ease access to surface water. For the efforts to be successful, climate change and drought must be factored in, and for that to happen, assistance to the sector must be increased. He expressed Senegal’s willingness to host the Special Rapporteur in the context of her studies.

ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti) said that the presence of Evo Morales at the meeting added significance to the gathering and underscored the high-level political commitment to water and sanitation, by putting them on the international agenda. The timing of the meeting was also important, taking place as it did against the backdrop of a severe drought in the Horn of Africa. Only a few years from the 2015 Millennium Development Goal deadline to halve the number of people without drinking water and sanitation, it was inconceivable to bridge that gap without major actions by States.

However, he said he was encouraged that so many countries were recognizing the right to water and sanitation, and implementing both short- and long-term measures to realize that right. The world was divided into “haves and have nots”, but those distinctions must give way to the equitable enjoyment of human rights. States bore the primary responsibility for the provision of those rights. Djibouti was one of the most deficient in the world with regard to safe water access, and it risked running out of water in the next 25 years. Like many other countries, it also lacked the resources and infrastructure to desalinate water or to distribute it widely. Challenges, however, should not discourage the international community from striving to reverse those trends and ensuring safe water and sanitation for all.

THEMBELA OSMOND NGCULU (South Africa) said that his country’s bill of rights provided a legislative framework for the enjoyment of all human rights and freedoms, including the enjoyment of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. His Government, therefore, had an obligation to create an enabling environment for the provision of those resources and services; it had committed itself to those goals since 1994. Water and the environment were catalysts to South Africa’s economic growth, and a strategic framework for water services had been in place since 2003, requiring that all clinics, schools, and people had access to safe water. South Africa also used the water policies of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other regional development frameworks. He called for international cooperation to help all countries, especially developing ones, achieve the Millennium Development Goals and other targets related to water and sanitation.

CSABA KÖRÖSI (Hungary), aligning his statement with that of the European Union, said speakers at the meeting had already shown a major commitment to improving access to safe water and sanitation. A firm legal basis was of vital importance to successful water management, both at the national and international levels, he added. While access to clean drinking water and sanitation should be universal, that was far from reality. In truth, realizing the basic human right to water and sanitation required investments in institutions and infrastructure. Preventative measures must be taken now, he stressed.

JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland), calling the recognition of the right to water and sanitation historic, said that in view of the Millennium Development Goals and planning for the period following 2015, the rights-based approach was essential. He supported the joint monitoring programme of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, which showed the great gaps between the needs in the field and their financing, and called for greater investment, both nationally and internationally. His country had agreed to increase its official development assistance (ODA), which would be focussed primarily on water. Efforts to realize the right to water and sanitation must be scaled up worldwide. He cited the Protocol for Water and Health, to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, as an instrument that embodied the links between human rights and sustainable development. Switzerland was drawing up guidelines to better utilize the rights-based approach.

GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN (Australia), noting that his country was in fact the driest inhabited continent on Earth, recognized that access to water and sanitation was fundamental to the realization of the range of human rights. He welcomed progress towards improving access to water and sanitation, but was alarmed that the sanitation target would be missed by 1 billion people. For that reason, his Government had invested more than $330 million on water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries and was planning on spending more in the next four years.

He said that addressing the many challenges in the sector required enhanced water policy and management approaches, increased investments through funding and capacity support, the application of innovative and cost-effective water supply and sanitation technology and an improved focus on the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized. Also necessary was to improve planning for both urban and rural areas, to expand rainwater catchments and storage and to empower community initiatives. It was also vital to support integrated management systems and to urgently address the disproportionate impact that poor water and sanitation access had on health, education and economic opportunities for women and young girls, as well as people with disabilities.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that his country had set up a State-owned company to ensure adequate water supply and to look after the operation of sanitation facilities. Considerable progress in the past few years had gained the country the “MDG prize”. He thanked Burkina Faso’s partners for their assistance in the sector. However, there were many challenges in his Sahelian country, and he noted that it was working with Morocco on new technologies. He hoped that the upcoming summit on desertification would help address the water issue, which had an impact on many other sectors.

THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said that her country had a policy of ensuring that all inhabited islands had access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation services. Streams and rivers did not exist in the island, and lakes were scarce. Its main source of water was shallow groundwater, and the Maldives, therefore, was extremely vulnerable to water scarcity. “Urgent and transformational action” was needed, in particular, in small island States, such as the Maldives. They faced climate change and water scarcity; that was a problem today, and not one in the distant future. The human right to water and sanitation was legally binding, she stressed, and the provision of that right must be considered further in the context of sea-level rise, climate change, and other critical phenomena.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said that the rights to water and sanitation were at the centre of the economic, social and cultural rights that Morocco held dear. It was not a political, ideological or a moral matter, but a “solemn appeal” for the right to life. He asked whether it was acceptable that in Africa and Asia a woman or child must walk an average distance of six kilometres for water. He himself had lived in very difficult circumstances and had personally experienced such deprivation to water, which affected four people out of every 10 in the developing world. The time had come to harness energies towards finding a sustainable solution. Today’s meeting was a recognition of the gravity of the situation, but more action was urgently needed. Morocco supported any international effort to give full recognition of the human right to water, which was a major domestic policy priority. It was critical to save water to make the best possible use of it, as the primary responsibility of States in relation to water was to save lives. But more support was needed at the international level.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), noting that polarities existed between countries around the world with regard to the enjoyment of human rights, stressed that the right to water and sanitation must be more widely respected. The fact that a rich minority of the world monopolized and flaunted those resources, while millions lacked them, was unacceptable. Those discrepancies were characteristic of the capitalist system; it was necessary to overcome the “miserable economic fundamentalism” that stymied the equitable distribution of water around the world. President Morales had noted that water was “the mother of all rights”. Venezuela would add that water was not a source of finance and trade. The country’s domestic provisions stated that water was an asset of society, and belonged to all. Full exercise of national solidarity was exercised and the exploitation of water by foreigners was prevented. Venezuela had achieved the Millennium Development Goal on water, with more than 95 per cent of its population today having access to safe drinking water, and more than 92 per cent with access to adequate sanitation.

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Can a 90-Year-Old Set of Colorado River Laws Work in the 21st Century?

For Immediate Release Colorado College: Can a 90-Year-Old Set of Colorado River Laws Work in the 21st Century?  Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Colorado River Legal Scholar to Discuss Implications of the Law of the River: COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Sept. 26, 2011 – The future of the Colorado River Basin faces mounting challenges, including climate change and an exploding population growth in the West.  Although roughly 27 million people rely on the river for water, energy and healthy ecosystems, some expert studies predict that by 2050 the river system will not be able to consistently meet the needs of those dependent upon it.

Can a nearly 90-year-old set of laws weather the turbulence of the 21st century?

Come hear Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs and Colorado River legal scholar Larry MacDonnell, of the University of Wyoming’s College of Law, discuss the implications of the river’s legal foundation for the next generation at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 17 in the Richard F. Celeste Theatre in the Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., on the Colorado College campus.

The Colorado River Basin is ruled by a compilation of decrees, rights, court decisions and laws that together are referred to as the “Law of the River.” The keystone of these “commandments” is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an interstate agreement created by the seven basin states with provisions for general water allotments. As municipalities, agriculture and environmental interests jockey for continued water supplies in the face of projected diminished flows, will the Law of the River be able to bend under new stresses or will it break?

This free talk is part the Colorado College State of the Rockies 2011-12 Project Speakers Series, where leading experts and well-known river advocates examine the Colorado River Basin and the complex water use, environmental and economic challenges facing future generations.

Monthly programs are scheduled through January 2012, leading up to a public conference April 8-10 where students will present the 2012 State of the Rockies Report, which examines current water, agricultural and recreational issues in the Basin and highlights how economic, demographic and climate changes will impact what the Colorado River looks like to future generations. Sessions with national experts will also explore the future of the Basin.

WHAT:                 “The Law of the Colorado River Basin: Rigid Relic or Flexible Foundation for the Future?” presented by Gregory Hobbs Jr., Colorado Supreme Court, and Larry MacDonnell, University of Wyoming College of Law

WHEN: 7-9 p.m., Oct. 17, 2011

WHERE: Richard F. Celeste Theatre, Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., on the Colorado College campus (corner of Cache La Poudre Street and Cascade Avenue)

NEXT UP: Monday, Nov. 7 – “The Colorado River Basin: Environmental Perspectives and Action” presented by Bart Miller, Water Program Director for Western Resource Advocates; Jennifer Pitt, Director of the Colorado River Project for the Environmental Defense Fund; and Tom Chart, USFWS, Director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

MORE INFO: All talks are free of charge and open to the public. For more information, or to learn how to connect with various podcasts and videos from program, visit the State of the Rockies Project website at www.stateoftherockies.com. The State of the Rockies Project is an annual research study conducted collaboratively by undergraduate students and faculty to increase public understanding of the vital issues affecting the Rockies. This year’s topic is The Colorado River Basin: Use, Restoration and Sustainability for the Next Generation.

For information, directions or disability accommodation at the event, members of the public may call (719) 389-6607.

About Colorado College: Colorado College is a nationally prominent, four-year liberal arts college that was founded in Colorado Springs in 1874. The college operates on the innovative Block Plan, in which its approximately 2,000 undergraduate students study one course at a time in intensive 3½-week segments. The college also offers a master of arts in teaching degree. For more information, visit www.ColoradoCollege.edu <http://www.ColoradoCollege.edu>.

Contact:  Leslie Weddell (719) 389-6038 Leslie.Weddell@ColoradoCollege.edu

Vote for Western Washington University-Forgotten People Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping

Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping Vote for Western Washington University Forgotten People mapping Project About the submission: The online map developed in this project uses data from the EPA 2007 Abandon Uranium Mines and the Navajo Nation: Atlas with Geospatial Data to give citizens access to basic information on unregulated water sources and abandoned uranium mine features. The map also provides citizens with the basic tools to visulize the spatial elements of potential environmental hazards.

Environmental Justice is a relatively new field for environmental advocacy. One the many attributes that is illustrative of environmental injustice is proximity to pollution. Developments in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the gathering of spatial data have furthered the implications of environmental justice. The GIS technical expertise is not always available to grassroots organizations and thus the spatial nexus is sometimes missing in the struggle for justice. This project was designed to assist the Navajo grassroots organization The Forgotten People in both policy development and participatory mapping.

9/16/2011 Navajo Generating Station blamed for haze over Grand Canyon, respiratory illnesses But Native American activists say new study ignores health impacts

9/16/2011 Colorado Independent: Navajo Generating Station blamed for haze over Grand Canyon, respiratory illnesses But Native American activists say new study ignores health impacts: By David O. Williams: Residents of the Navajo and Hopi reservations in the Four Corners region are dismayed that a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) on the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz., “clearly omits consideration of the coal-burning plant’s pollution impacts on public health.” During public meetings in Phoenix the last two days, activist groups have been rallying support for looming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean-air regulations that would compel the plant to install the best retrofit technology available to scrub nitrogen oxide emissions from its smokestack. Besides respiratory problems for area residents, critics blame the 42-year-old power plant for haze over Grand Canyon National Park.

Last month the EPA ordered major pollution controls within five years at San Juan Generating Station 15 miles west of Farmington, N.M., ordering the facility to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent. Colorado lawmakers were seeking to avoid similar federal regulations when they approved the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act that requires the conversion of aging coal-fired power plants on the Front Range to natural gas or renewable energy.

Conservation groups say the Department of Interior — whose Bureau of Reclamation owns the largest chunk of the Navajo power plant – is pressuring EPA to delay its ruling until the Golden, Colo.-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) can complete the first phase of an overall study on operations at the Navajo Generating Station. The plant, collectively owned by the Salt River Project, provides electricity in Arizona, Nevada and California and also supplies power to pump water through the Central Arizona Project.

“The pollution, health, and water impacts of Navajo Generating Station are huge costs — human and financial and environmental,” said Nikke Alex, a member of the Navajo Nation. “The fact that they’re ignored in the Department of Interior’s study is glaring and should be alarming for everyone in our region. Since the Department of Interior owns so much of this plant, there’s concern they may be using their influence to avoid an accounting of the true costs of keeping it running.”

As many as 18,000 homes on the Navajo Nation are completely off the grid despite the presence of nearby coal-fired power plants, which local health officials blame for a wide range of respiratory problems. But Republican lawmakers from Arizona have been actively trying to thwart the EPA push for cleaner air in the region, holding hearings and targeting various congressional committees.

U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Trent Franks sent a letter to the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power and the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs arguing the EPA regulations could cost jobs and endanger the state’s power and water supply. They blasted what they deemed “burdensome regulations that threaten the viability of the plant.”

“The plant and associated mine provides nearly 1,000 jobs in northern Arizona, is critical to the livelihood of the Pinal County and Native American agricultural community, and is essential to supplying water to 80 percent of the state’s population,” Gosar said. “We must carefully examine regulations that could threaten the state of Arizona’s water and power supply.”

Navajo and Hopi activists counter that they’ve suffered greatly from increased asthma and other respiratory problems traced to the plant. They also pointed to a study by the American Lung Association that found the Phoenix metro area is “one of the 25 worst of 277 U.S. metro areas for ozone pollution and is the second worst area in the nation for year-round exposure to fine particle pollution.”

Still, Navajo plant operators have reportedly indicated they might have to shutter the facility if the EPA requires the retrofits, which critics claim could unnecessarily cost more than $1 billion.

COMMENTS:

Poisoning people and the environment including the waters and the fish that swim there is not a fair trade off for a thousand jobs and cheap electricity.

I remember coming over Wolf Creek pass one evening some 30-35 years ago marveling at the spectacular technicolor sunset, only to be dismayed by my companions explanation that the colors were due to the refraction of light through the same pollution as the nightly smog in Denver,Phoenix,L.A.etc.The source of that was the Page plant which incidentally was readily identifiable from space by Apollo astronauts because it was so immense and isolated.

The notion that this plant will close before adapting to more stringent EPA regulations is ludicrous-just more of the corporate right’s scare tactics designed to intimidate low information voters.The manufacture ,installation ,and maintenance of high tech scrubbers will not only protect our health and environment ,but obviously create MORE jobs-as compliance with most regulations do.The insatiable greed of corporate utility operators [who already have all the advantages of a complete monopoly of an essential service,largely subsidized by taxpayers] is the only interest that does not benefit from these changes.

Not all Navajo or Hopi are dismayed. Some of us are actually elated with the idea of stopping haze and any related health issue that it may caused. Your wording is rather affront.

9/19/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody seeks permit renewal for Kayenta Mine

9/19/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody seeks permit renewal for Kayenta Mine By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Peabody Western Coal Co. has filed an application with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to renew its permit for mining operations at Kayenta Mine through July 5, 2015. Peabody submitted an application to OSM to renew the permit in February 2010, and proposes to continue mining in coal resource areas N-9, J-19, and J-21 from July 6, 2010, through July 5, 2015. The proposed permit renewal does not include any revisions to the mining and operations plan or the addition of any new mining areas.

“The Kayenta Mine is moving through a routine five-year permit renewal process covering the mine plan, land restoration plan and other activities related to ongoing operations, which is consistent with current operations,” Beth Sutton, director of Corporate Communications for Peabody Energy, said.

OSM has prepared an environmental assessment to evaluate environmental effects from the permit renewal. Comments must be submitted by Oct. 22 to be considered.

The Kayenta Mine permit area is located on approximately 44,073 acres of land leased from the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. Peabody holds leases to mine up to 670 million tons of coal from reserves within the permit area. As of July 2010, 20,851 acres within the permit area had been disturbed.

Mining activities within the lease area would result in a moderate, short-term impact, according to OSM and would disturb 1,159 acres of land used for grazing and traditional land uses. However, the federal agency said reclamation of the disturbed areas would improve the productivity and quality of grazing lands.

“The mine has a record of good environmental compliance, and typically returns mined lands to a condition that is as much as 20 times more productive for rangeland than native areas,” Sutton said.

Within the J-21 coal resource area, four of the 83 occupied houses within the Kayenta Mine permit area would be relocated. Residents would be compensated for the replacement of all structures and for lost grazing acreage if they can establish a customary use area claim.

According to the Finding of No Significant Impact, Peabody has committed to replace three windmill wells that have or would be removed by mining. Any other water supply that could be adversely impacted by mining during the five-year permit term would be replaced.

Annual groundwater use for domestic and mine-related purposes from the Navajo aquifer would average 1,236 acre-feet per year, or 70 percent less than was used prior to 2006 when the coal slurry pipeline was operating.

Water quantity use impacts to the N-aquifer are expected to be negligible to minor, and no endangered or threatened species are expected to be directly affected because there is no predicted decrease of flows in seeps and springs associated with the N-aquifer, OSM said. Pumping has been primarily occurring within the confined part of the N-aquifer, and the agency said water levels are rising or are predicted to rise because less groundwater is being used since the coal slurry pipeline was discontinued.

The number of people employed at the Kayenta Mine will increase from 422 in 2010 to 432 in 2015. The average annual revenue paid to the tribes from 2005-2009 was $43.2 million, plus an additional average annual payment of $6.2 million to Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and scholarship funds, according to OSM. These revenues are expected to continue.

“Kayenta Mine is a powerful economic force in the region creating 400 jobs and nearly $370 million in direct and indirect economic benefits for regional communities,” Sutton said. “We look forward to an efficient and timely review as part of the customary stakeholder process.”

Kayenta Mine ships approximately 8 million tons of coal annually to Navajo Generating Station.

Information: http://www.wrcc.osmre.gov/Current_Initiatives/Kayenta_Mine/Renewal.shtm or (303) 293-5035. E-mail comments to kayentarenewalea@osmre.gov

9/17/2011 Gallup Independent: Options discussed to save the Peaks from reclaimed water use at Snowbowl

9/17/2011 Gallup Independent: Options discussed to save the Peaks from reclaimed water use at Snowbowl By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, next week to hear U.N. Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s report to the U.N. Human Rights Council on the protection of sacred sites. On the home front, efforts will continue to ensure reclaimed water is not used to desecrate the sacred San Francisco Peaks. Some present and former Navajo Nation Council members and a representative of Dine Hataalii Association met in August with officials from the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort to discuss options to stop the use of reclaimed water for artificial snow-making at the resort.

A preferred alternative would be to support amending the U.S. Forest Service permit to allow the use of well water drawn from land at the base of the mountain owned by the Snowbowl. A water source that does not rely on Flagstaff’s water treatment plant and is not connected to the city system would ensure reclaimed water is not used.

Ivan Gamble of LeChee, who does not work for any of the entities involved and said he has never skied at the Snowbowl, has been trying to facilitate discussions between Navajo, Hopi and Snowbowl owners.

“We used to have a very good working relationship with the tribes back in the mid-’90s when we supplied a lot of logs for reconstruction of the villages and the kivas,” Eric Borowsky, Snowbowl general partner, said Friday. “Then once we started the upgrade proposal, the Forest Service said we could no longer have direct communication with the tribes, it all had to be government to government.”

Borowsky said he has been trying to come up with an alternative water source. “We do have permission to use reclaimed water, but I know the tribes would like a different source of water. I’m very happy to work with them to try to come up with an alternate solution and to return to the days when we had a very good working relationship.”

The possibility of drilling wells has been mentioned, he said, but whether to move forward on that option would be up to the tribes. “They have to take a formal position on this matter and then we’ll have to work together to try to make it happen.”

Jerry Honawa, 74, of Hotevilla, a member of the Tobacco Clan and the Pure Moon Society, has started a petition to obtain signatures of traditional practitioners from various villages and kivas at Hopi.

San Francisco Peaks, or Nuvatukyaovi in Hopi, is considered the “Temple of the Gods,” Honawa said Friday. “From what we are taught about our migration, this is one of the farthest northern temples from the migration from way down South America somewhere. They left temples along the way, and this is the last one on this continent.”

Honawa does not condone the string of protests which have been taking place in Flagstaff and Albuquerque. “The way it is done does not signify anything that a practitioner or a medicine man would be doing.” The proper way would be dialog across the table, he said, “rather than on the street corner yelling my lungs out. This is the way I believe and this is the way I was raised.”

Honawa does not speak for the kikmongwis, or traditional village chiefs, because Hotevilla doesn’t have a kikmongwi anymore. “They’re kind of extinct,” he said. “But we do have acting people that are kind of like the leaders within the village.”

In addition, each kiva has a person they look to as their leader for whichever clan is responsible for that kiva, he said. “We have six of them here. Out of the six, three are the responsibility of the Snake Clan and the Sand Clan, one is the Badger/Butterfly, one of them is the Sun Clan, and the other is the Spider/Bluebird.”

As the Tobacco Clan patriarch, Honawa visits most of the kivas, he said. “Tobacco is at every kiva and I go to each one of them at certain periods of time. I am also a member of the Pure Moon Society, and that is where the smoke hazing of the Katsinam (Hopi ancestral spirits) is prevalent. That’s the kiva of the Badger Clan People, where the Pure Moon Society has their headquarters, basically.”

The Hopi believe that the Katsinam are responsible for moisture and that the installation of snow-making technology within the 777-acre special use permit area would alter the natural processes of the San Francisco Peaks and the responsibilities of the Katsinam. The use of reclaimed water, especially, would contaminate the natural resources needed to perform the required ceremonies that are the basis of Hopi cultural identity.

Hopis often are asked why they aren’t seen when they make their pilgrimages to Nuvatukyaovi. The reason is “a lot of this is done in a sacred way to where it is not for the public eye,” Honawa said.

“One of my first experiences, when my grandfather was still with us, I took him there; and when we saw these people, he said, ‘Act like we’re not doing anything special.’ We acted like tourists, and then when the people were gone, then we continued. These are some of the things that they practice and they asked us to carry it like that.”

Honawa’s petition states that the signers do not support artificial snow-making. “This issue has gone on too long, has been fought in the wrong places. We support the compromise being fashioned between the various entities and hope they are able to secure a compromise based on good faith and mutual understanding.”

A focus group from Navajo District 5, which is comprised of elders from Birdsprings, Leupp and Tolani Lake, said it would be less offensive to use well water on the mountain, known to Navajo as Dook’o’oosliid, rather than reclaimed water. Dine Hataalii Association reportedly is weighing the option and has not issued an outright objection.

9/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´divided on LCR settlement

9/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´ divided on LCR settlement By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly proclaimed support for a Little Colorado River water rights settlement and Navajo Generating Station lease renewal in a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes. But in a separate meeting with Council delegates, Hayes heard a different story. “NGS was initially allowed to use what was considered water from the Navajo Nation free of cost and then renew that after 25 years,” Delegate Dwight Witherspoon told the Washington delegation. “Certainly we would like to say, ‘No fricking way’ to giving that 34,000 acre-feet of water for free to NGS.”

Water from the Upper Basin of the Colorado River is necessary for the continued operation of Navajo Generating Station, which provides power to move Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project. The NGS lease expires in 2019 but includes the right to a 25-year lease extension and the use of 34,100 acre-feet per year of Upper Basin water.

Interior officials, including Hayes and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Del Laverdure, met with Shelly before discussing a proposed Little Colorado River settlement with the Navajo Nation Council’s Nabiki’yati’ Committee.

“The Navajo Nation needs the Department of the Interior’s support for the delivering of Central Arizona Project water to Window Rock,” Shelly said, adding that the Nation is “continuing its support of the Navajo Generating Station and is currently negotiating the terms of a lease renewal.”

Hayes told delegates that a nearly billion dollar settlement proposed in 2008 and approved last year by Council would have resolved both Little Colorado and Mainstem Colorado River issues. It included a $515 million Western Navajo Pipeline project. However, the price tag precluded it from becoming law. Since then, the Navajo Nation and the United States have regrouped and “there is the potential for a $400 million settlement,” he said.

If Navajo and Hopi can agree, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., is interested in making it happen. They have the potential to get the settlement across the line, Hayes said, “but only if we can close on the final issues in the coming weeks. That’s how critical it is. If we miss this window, I don’t know when it would come again.”

Duane Tsinigine, who represents the western portion of Navajo Nation, said he would like to see everyone work together on a settlement and request funding for the Western Navajo Pipeline, which would bring water to residents of the former Bennett Freeze as well as to Hopi.

“My dad’s side of the family is Hopi and I do support water for the Hopis. We did work diligently with the Hopis on the Intergovernmental Compact to lift the Bennett Freeze. I think we can work with them with due diligence on getting that western pipeline, and your support in this effort will be deeply, greatly appreciated.”

Leonard Tsosie said he was involved in the water discussion in the beginning and noticed Kyl pulled out of discussing the main Colorado River issue. “He blamed the cost of it, but I know the money is a drop in the bucket when it comes to federal finances. I believe it is an excuse for him to raise the NGS issue. I think there are hidden agendas.”

He asked Hayes and Secretary Ken Salazar to examine the Interior’s role as trustee for the Navajo people. “We need settlement of this water. I am not familiar with any dire need for this Council to renew the NGS,” Tsosie said.

“Peabody and NGS were bad deals made by the federal government on behalf of the Navajo people. These bad deals are now hamstringing economic development and community development and are working against us in terms of jurisdiction and authority. We want federal participation to turn this around. We don’t want the federal government, our trustee, on the other side fighting us, and that’s what we have found.”

Witherspoon said another concern in the settlement language is a clause about a waiver of injury to water for past and future water settlements. “I’m not sure this is protecting anybody but a particular entity that’s already on the Nation that’s using water, and we’d like to request that this be addressed and maybe be removed.”

Katherine Benally, chair of the Resources and Development Committee, read off a list of items Navajo would like to see in relation to the settlement.

“We’ve had some discussions regarding whether we could continue to support Navajo Generating Station operations and agreement. We looked at our history with NGS … It does not look very favorable – certainly not favorable for the Navajo Nation. They took our water, they took our land and did not bother to come back and see if we were properly compensated, and you all know that we are not. This remains a concern to us.

“We feel once we sit at the table with them and their stance is that they will continue to take from us free, we will not tolerate that. We are not agreeable to that. So in your meetings with NGS, it might be appropriate to give them that heads up from the Navajo Nation,” she said.

Walter Phelps who represents communities along the Little Colorado River, stressed, “My people need water. Our waters are contaminated with uranium. We have serious issues related to drought.”

Just a few days ago, Phelps attended a meeting in Cameron where his constituents asked his help in getting wells repaired and bringing water to isolated areas. “I was talking to a grandma who was just pleading with me. She says, ‘We have no water and I wish there was some way we could make use of that pipeline that Black Mesa was using for the slurry.’

“I know that’s not being considered, but the point is, the need is there, and it’s great. To me, $400 million – I’m embarrassed to go back and share that with my people,” he said.

Delegate Nelson Begaye told the committee he was aware that Hayes already had met with the president. “I don’t know what’s been said there, what kinds of commitments and questions and answers … I believe we should have gotten together here as a three-branch government and have one voice.

“There are a lot of issues,” he said. “Some of the things I personally don’t like is the conditions – if you don’t do NGS, for example, no water to Window Rock. I have problems with that.”

Hayes said that in Interior’s view, the water rights issue should be resolved on its own merits, and that while NGS issues are “hugely important,” they should be separate deals.

“Other folks are putting these things together and I share the concern. … We’re not excited about the connection that some others are bringing to this thing, but we’re going to live with the reality we’re in, and we need to work together on both issues and see where it leads.”

9/2/2011 Indigenous Portal: Malaysia: Need EIA & SEIA on controversial Baram dam

Malaysia: Need EIA & SIA on controversial Baram dam: Press Statement to stop portraying Baram Dam is approved of EIA and SEIA: STOP PORTRAYING THAT THE BARAM DAM HAS BEEN APPROVED AS THE FEASIBILITY STUDY INCLUDING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA) AND SOCIAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (SEIA) HAVE YET TO BE COMPLETED: MIRI, SARAWAK – We would like to call on the Sarawak State Government and its agencies such as the Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) including the Member of Parliament for Baram, Dato Jacob Dungau Sagan and the State Assemblyman for Telang Usan, Encik Dennis Ngau to immediately stop portraying that the implementation of the proposed and controversial Baram dam has been approved for implementation as the feasibility study including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Social Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) for the project has yet to be completed.

The sudden announcement in the media on August 24 on the formation of the so-called Baram HEP Community Consultative Committee headed by the Baram MP and the Telang Usan State Assemblyman to look into the relocation of the Baram villagers who would be displaced by the implementation of the highly controversial dam project has given the impression to the public at large that its implementation has been officially approved.

What is worst is that the Sarawak State Government has even issued notices of extinguishment of native customary rights (NCR) over lands affected by the so-called access road to the Baram dam from the Rural Growth Centre (RGC) in Long Lama, Baram.

Until today, the EIA and SEIA for this dam have not been completed and it’s a mandatory legal requirement under the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Order, 1994 (NREO) made under the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (Amended) 1993 that the EIA Report for such project must be submitted to and approved by the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) which is chaired by the Sarawak Chief Minister before the implementation of the project can commence. In this case, even the size and the site for this controversial dam has not been decided.

The Sarawak State Government and the SEB have recently stated that they will fully comply with international standards when implementing the 12 proposed new dam projects in Sarawak including this controversial Baram dam.

But we have noted that the principles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which require Governments to, inter alia, obtain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the indigenous people before implementing development projects and programmes within or over their territory have not been complied with by the Sarawak Government and the SEB in the case of the equally controversial Murum dam now under construction and also in respect of the proposed Baram dam.

Informal briefing session for a few selected community leaders and individuals as was done by the Sarawak Government and SEB in the case of the Murum dam and recently in Miri for the Baram dam cannot be considered as “a free, prior and informed consent” of or by the affected indigenous population in Murum and Baram as those were merely individuals who have not been authorized by all the residents of their respective longhouses to speak or decide for them.

There is no need to build these 12 new dams in Sarawak including this hugely unpopular Baram dam because to do so would result in Sarawak encountering a huge surplus of energy of more than 600 percent.

Even the Federal Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Peter Chin has also recently stated that “Sarawak is going to have a surplus power for a long time once the Bakun dam goes on line”.

The building of these 12 new dams would also adversely affects Sarawak’s financial standing in the future. At the current rate, each of these dams cost at least RM3 billion to built and the 12 would at least cost the State RM36 billion, excluding the future and usual huge costs overrun that is typical of such projects.

Further, all the problems caused by the Batang Ai dam have yet to be resolved and the problems faced by the displaced communities in Bakum and Murum are mounting by the day. In the circumstances, it is therefore utterly unjustifiable and totally irrational for the Sarawak State Government to keep building more dams throughout the State.

For the above reasons, we wish to hereby state that we strongly oppose the construction of this highly controversial Baram dam and all the other proposed 10 dams and we call upon the Sarawak State Government to stop its plan to do so.

1. Mark Bujang,
Executive Director,
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS)
2. Philip Jau
Chairman,
Jawatankuasa Perlindungan Rakyat Baram
3. Jok Jau Evong,
Field Director,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Marudi
4. Abun Sui Anyit,
Director,
Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Alliance (SILA) &
Lawyers For Liberty
5. Romuald Siew,
President,
Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (TAHABAS)
6. Thomas Jalong
President,
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)

9/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Residents suffer while tribes debate water issues

Rose Chewing Lane from Boadaway/Gap drank water from eight of these 55-gallon barrels for several years9/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Residents suffer while tribes debate water issues By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Members of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and the Hopi Tribe will meet next week to discuss water issues brought up by Navajos residing on Hopi Partitioned Land who refused to leave their homes after Congress partitioned the disputed lands in 1974 and forced the relocation of Navajo and Hopi families. In April, after two years of efforts by the grassroots group Forgotten People, U.S. and Navajo agencies, the first load of safe drinking water was delivered to residents in the Black Falls/Box Springs/Grand Falls area near Leupp who were drinking uranium- and arsenic-contaminated water. The group hopes to replicate that success for residents of HPL and the former Bennett Freeze.

On Aug. 22, Forgotten People planned to conduct a meeting of HPL residents at the Big Mountain home of elderly matriarch Pauline Whitesinger to discuss the possibility of implementing the water-hauling pilot project in their area.

Marsha Monestersky, Forgotten People program director, and Ed Becenti, Window Rock liaison, asked Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and other Navajo officials to attend, as well as officials from the Hopi Tribe. But that meeting went belly-up after Hopi informed Navajo that a permit was required and that Monestersky has an exclusion order against her.

“At this time, the Hopi Tribe will not be supporting or attending the meeting,” according to a letter from Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa. “To begin, the issues being raised – water and transportation issues – are Government-to-Government issues. Thus, a request for this type of meeting must come from the Navajo Nation, not the ‘Forgotten People.’”

Shingoitewa said since no one had requested a permit to hold the event, the meeting would be in violation of the Hopi Tribe’s rules and regulations. “Finally, there is a valid and binding exclusion order for Ms. Monestersky. Thus, Ms. Monestersky is not welcome on Hopi land,” he said.

Monestersky, a paralegal, first came to the area in 1975 to assist Navajo HPL residents with relocation issues and taking their case before the United Nations. Those efforts resulted in the first investigation against the United States by the United Nations for human rights violations. Monestersky said she was charged by Hopi with the unauthorized practice of law, accused of being present on HPL on several occasions without a permit, and for writing a $35 check that bounced, making her of “unfit moral character.”

She wrote the check off-reservation to buy an electric heater at Walmart in 1995 because she was “living in a cold, shabby trailer in Winslow” at the time. It was only after she moved to the reservation that she learned the check had bounced. Though she paid it off, she believes the check charge was used as an excuse by Hopi to get her banished forever from HPL.

“If they expel everyone who wrote a bad check, half the people here would be gone,” she said at the time. “What they really wanted to do was stop me from working with Navajo families here and helping them stick up for their rights.”

Pauline Whitesinger said the wells throughout HPL have been capped off, fenced or bulldozed, and the natural water near her home is contaminated. “When I drink the water it hurts my throat and I have a reaction when I swallow it and get sick.”

Raymond Maxx, executive director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, said Friday that they met recently with HPL residents who brought up the water issues. “We don’t know why the wells were capped off. We’re supposed to have a meeting with the Hopis this coming week regarding the issue.”

Louella Nahsonhoya, public information officer for Hopi, said the tribe is reviewing the issues and is moving cautiously with advice. Calls to Clayton Honyumptewa, director of Hopi Department of Natural Resources, were not returned.

Rena Babbitt Lane, whose husband passed away years ago after suffering a ruptured aneurysm while trying to open a cover from a dismantled well, attended the Aug. 26 meeting at Hardrock Chapter. Through her daughters Mary and Zena Lane, Rena said the number one priority everyone talked about is water.

“The Navajo Nation said the Hopi Tribe told them they capped off the wells because they did not want people to drink contaminated water. We need water for our livestock and we were never told anything by the Hopis. What is the water contaminated with? Why did they just destroy all the water resources without telling us why, even the Rocky Ridge well for Big Mountain residents?”

Lane, who is in her 80s, said they have to buy water from the chapter house and haul it 16 miles one way on a sandy road filled with potholes. Unlike in Window Rock, the monsoon season has not been kind. “The water ponds are filled with sand and the water when it does come does not last. We need tractors to dig out the water ponds and a water well near our home,” she said.

“We can’t really depend on our Council people and the Hopi and Navajo government. They are of no help to those of us that live on HPL. When we tell them something, both tribes point a finger at each other and no one helps us.”

Caroline Tohannie, an elder born and raised on Black Mesa, said they are suffering health problems and sickness because of the land dispute. “To this day there are a lot of arguments with both tribal councils. Why is it like that when they are supposed to work for the people to improve our lives? Can’t we work out our disagreements with the traditional people instead of the tribal councils? That is the way we want it.

“We need to reintroduce the greetings between the traditional Hopi and Navajos to straighten out our differences in that manner. In our language, k’e has to be regenerated. We have to reintroduce our greetings at the fireplace with the fire stick. Those are the laws of the traditional people and we need to follow the red road again.”

8/28/2011 Washington Examiner: Navajos focus on Little Colorado River settlement

8/28/2011 Washington Examiner: Navajos focus on Little Colorado River settlement By: FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press: The Navajo Nation, unwilling to settle its claims to the Colorado River without a pipeline to deliver much-needed water to its residents, now is focusing on rights to water from one of the river’s tributaries. Negotiators on a northern Arizona water rights settlement have removed from the deal a $515 million pipeline that would have delivered water to the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Even with the lower cost, however, it remains uncertain when the revised settlement might be introduced in Congress. Navajo lawmakers approved a version of the settlement last year. That version included the pipeline to send 11,000 acre-feet of Colorado River from Lake Powell to a handful of Navajo communities and about 4,000 acre-feet of water a year to the Hopi reservation.

But Republican Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who has shepherded key American Indian water rights deals through Congress, later said it was too costly and asked the negotiators to revise it.

Kyl’s office declined to comment on the revised settlement that negotiators sent him in June because it’s not final. But in a letter to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Kyl said the revised document marks only the next phase of conversation and that “it is possible that those costs will have to be further reduced.”

“Because of the estimated cost associated with a main-stem settlement, the parties pulled back and focused simply on a Little Colorado River settlement,” said Tom Whitmer, a water resource manager and tribal liaison for the state water department. “The federal government’s budget is not in the most healthy state. Whenever you start talking about settlements, it’s also about the cost of the infrastructure to get the water to the area it’s needed.”

Under the revised settlement, the Navajo Nation still would get any unclaimed flows from the Little Colorado River and nearly unlimited access to two aquifers beneath the reservation. It also would settle claims from the Hopi Tribe, which did not follow the Navajos’ footsteps in approving the settlement last year.

“I think we’ve gotten some things in there we feel good about,” said Hopi Chairman Le Roy Shingoitewa. “Whether or not they remain is really something the parties all have to agree to.”

Both the Navajo and Hopi are party to a case to adjudicate rights to the Little Colorado River, which has been on hold to allow for settlement discussions. Aside from Zuni Pueblo, no other Arizona tribe has acquired rights to the river, Whitmer said.

The revised settlement was revealed in a separate federal court case earlier this month in which the Navajo Nation sued to assert its rights to the Colorado River. The negotiators said in a status report that they did not expect any settlement to be approved by Congress until late next year.

They also outlined further concerns by Kyl, including the future of the Navajo Generating Station that provides power to deliver water through a series of canals to 80 percent of the state’s population and ensures that American Indian water rights settlements are met.

Kyl had asked negotiators for the tribes and 30 other entities to try to lower the $800 million cost of the settlement so that he could introduce legislation well ahead of his planned retirement.

Navajo water rights attorney Stanley Pollack said the settlement was structured so that the pipeline could be removed if necessary and that he would not bring it before tribal lawmakers without Kyl’s blessing.

Although the pipeline has been dropped from the settlement, neither the Navajo Nation nor the Hopi Tribe has waived rights to water from the Colorado River.

The revised settlement would provide the delivery of some 6,400 acre-feet of Colorado River water to Navajo communities in Arizona, along the New Mexico border. The water was reserved for a possible Navajo water rights settlement with the state of Arizona as part of a historic deal with Arizona tribes in 2004. The water would be delivered through the Navajo-Gallup pipeline authorized by the Navajo Nation’s water agreement with New Mexico in 2009.

The Arizona settlement for the lower Colorado River basin had been in negotiation for more than a decade. Tribal officials say they’ll now have to come up with other ways to provide water in areas where Navajos commonly drive long distances to haul water for themselves and their livestock. Some smaller projects are in the works.

Ray Yazzie Begay, 45, had high hopes for a pipeline that would deliver water to his community in Cameron. Much of the water there has a bitter taste, he said, and is good only for showering and livestock feeding. He recently was filling up a 210-gallon water tank outside the Cameron Trading Post that was destined for his sheep, cattle and horses a few miles away.

A pipeline “would bring a lot of good things to the community,” he said. “A lot of us live out there in the back areas.”

Navajo lawmaker Duane Tsinigine said the need for water is especially prevalent on the western side of the reservation, where Navajos were prevented from making any improvements to their home or land for decades because of a land dispute with the Hopi Tribe. The construction ban has been lifted but many in the community are still awaiting basic needs, he said.

“Maybe we can file for a separate settlement, which if we filed we might not see in this lifetime,” he said.

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