Tag Archives: Right To Water And Sanitation

8/11/2011 Water for People: One Year Anniversary: Water Declared Human Right

8/11/2011 Water for People: One Year Anniversary: Water Declared Human Right: As the United Nations celebrates the one year anniversary (August 3, 2011) of their declaration of water as a basic human right, the debate continues over what exactly that phrase means. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon triggered controversy with this statement: “Let us be clear,” he asserted, “a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free.” The key, he continued, is to make water affordable and available, but not to remove the market entirely.

If the rich pay less per unit of water than the poor, this is a violation of the poor’s human right to water. If water is used to fill swimming pools to the extent that it is no longer available, or the cost increases too high, for the poor to have access, this is a violation of their human right to water. But, declaring water a human right does not declare it cost-free.

Thalif Deen’s article marking the 1 year anniversary provides a clear overview of the debate between the need for increased water access for the poor, and the benefits and challenges of continuing water privatization. Access it here.

One year ago, following the UN declaration, CEO of Water For People Ned Breslin spoke with Rachel Cernansky of Planet Green.com to answer the question: What does making water a basic human right mean in practicality? In response to whether or not making water free will guarantee the right Mr. Breslin replied:

“The concept of free access to water undermines issues of sustainability. ‘Rights will only be realized if the delivery of water is sustained over time. Otherwise it’s a meaningless right,’ Breslin said, adding that the world’s experience with free water has been disastrous because pipes erode, systems break down, and no one is there to fix them. Whether there will or should be a cap on costs for citizens in developing countries (or anywhere) is a question that has to be worked out, but generally speaking, costs have to be ‘linked’ to the technologies that are supplying the water.”
Read the full article with more analysis from Water For People here.

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.”

Water as Basic Human Right Has a Market Price, Says U.N. Chief

Water as Basic Human Right Has a Market Price, Says U.N. Chief By Thalif Deen: UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3, 2011 (IPS) – As the 193-member General Assembly commemorates the first anniversary of its landmark resolution pronouncing water and sanitation to be a basic human right, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon triggered a political controversy last week when he implicitly declared that even human rights have a market price. “Let us be clear,” he asserted, “a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free.” Rather, he said, it means that water and sanitation services should be affordable and available for all, and that member states must do everything in their power to make this happen.

But what if member states transfer their obligations to the private sector, known to extract a heavy price – even from those who cannot afford to pay in the world’s poorer nations?

Darcey O’Callaghan, international policy director at the Washington- based Food and Water Watch, told IPS the important distinction is that while water delivery has a cost, water itself cannot be assigned – as many argue – an appropriate market price.

“Advocating for the human right to water is defined as water for basic health and safety needs,” she said. “It does not mean free water for swimming pools and golf courses.”

She pointed out that when poor slum dwellers pay five times what the wealthy pay for water, it is a clear example of discrimination and thus a violation of the human right to water that is now enshrined in a U.N. General Assembly resolution, adopted in July 2010.

“States are now duty bound to respect, protect and fulfill the human right to water and sanitation,” she declared.

According to the United Nations, nearly 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water, and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation.

In his statement last week, the secretary-general admitted it is not acceptable that poor slum-dwellers pay five or even 10 times as much for their water as wealthy residents of the same cities.

“And it is not acceptable that more than one billion people in rural communities live without toilets and have to defecate in the open,” he said.

But the reality is far different from the platitudes of the secretary-general, says a new report released by Food and Water Watch.

According to the study, private operations can create obstacles to the human right to affordable and accessible water and sanitation services.

In Guayaquil, Ecuador, water prices increased by 180 percent after the water system was taken over by Interagua, a subsidiary of Bechtel.

The study also said customers of the private water provider in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta experienced a 258-percent increase in tariffs and poor water quality, while only 54 percent of low-income households were provided with new water connections.

A similar pattern of exclusion was also evident in La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia, where a private contractor was accused of denying water service to 80,000 families.

“Many couldn’t afford the cost of setting up a connection, which for the poorest households cost the equivalent of more than two years of food expenses,” the study noted.

At a U.N. press conference last month, President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia, one of the strongest advocates of water as a basic human right, told reporters: “Water is life. Water is humanity. The right to water is just as important as any other human right.”

Backed by a 100-million-dollar loan from the Venezuela-based Andean Development Corporation, Bolivia has launched a major development project to supply rural municipalities with water for human consumption, irrigation and cattle rearing.

Sue Yardley, senior public policy officer at Tearfund, and a member of End Water Poverty, told IPS that cost recovery is a sound principle, often necessary for sustainable water and sanitation services over time.

But it has to be applied flexibly, focusing on those that can afford to pay alongside measures to ensure that cost recovery doesn’t become a barrier to access for poor people, she added.

In its report, Food and Water Watch categorically says that entrusting water utility operations to private enterprises is an inadequate method of realising the human right to water.

The study, titled “Water = Life: How Privatisation Undermines the Human Right to Water”, shows that poor, rural communities with weak governments can better deliver safe, clean, affordable water to their residents by partnering with one another.

“Yet the same communities that struggle to access this essential resource are also vulnerable to privatisation schemes that hike up prices, and leave the poor unable to afford basic water services,” says Food and Water Watch’s Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.

While privatised water service has been shown to obstruct the human right to water, research shows that municipalities can deliver safe, affordable water to residents by pooling resources in public-public partnerships (PUPs).

According to the study, PUPs can mitigate price increases and allow communities to avoid other problems associated with privatised water service because they eliminate the profit margin that is mandatory in privatised water delivery.

Mundia Matongo, policy and research officer at WaterAid Zambia and a member of End Water Poverty, told IPS, “Just to be clear, the general understanding is that water is both a social and economic good.”

As such, she said, it should be available first as a matter of right, and then that supply should be sustainable, which entails the users paying the right price. Too low a price would mean the supply won’t be sustained.

Taking the Zambian case as an example, she said, the water pricing model is based on a cross subsidy, with the rich paying for the poor.

“And I would say that there needs to be much closer regulation and enforcement of correct pricing plans,” she added.

“What we also find is that those communities most marginalised, such as families living in informal settlements, are forced to pay huge and poverty-inducing costs for water by unscrupulous government contracted firms or private suppliers – even in emerging economy countries such as India.”

This is absolutely not acceptable and the United Nations and its member states must ensure this ends by ensuring practical and funded country plans for water access, Matongo declared.

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Navajo Nation Presidential Town Hall Meetings

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