Tag Archives: Social Justice

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.”

Science Daily: Water wars: 21st century conflicts?

Science Daily: Water wars: 21st century conflicts? Al Jazeera.: Almost half of humanity will face water scarcity by 2030 and strategists from Israel to Central Asia prepare for strife. Governments and military planners around the world are aware of the impending problem; with the US senate issuing reports with names like Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With rapid population growth, and increased industrial demand, water withdrawls have tripled over the last 50 years, according to UN figures.”The war was also a reason why we left,” Hassain said. “There was a lot of fighting near my village.”

“Water scarcity is an issue exacerbated by demographic pressures, climate change and pollution,” said Ignacio Saiz, director of Centre for Economic and Social Rights, a social justice group. “The world’s water supplies should guarantee every member of the population to cover their personal and domestic needs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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