Water as Human Right Threatens to Split World Body

Water as Human Right Threatens to Split World Body
by Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 15, 2010 (IPS) – A long outstanding proposal to recognise the right to water as a basic universal human right is threatening to split the world’s rich and poor nations.

Opposition to the proposal is coming mostly from Western nations, says Maude Barlow, a global water advocate and a founder of the Canada-based Blue Planet Project.

“Canada is the worst. But Australia, the United States and Great Britain are also holding up the process,” she said.

“I am loath to see this as a North-South issue, but it is beginning to look like it,” Barlow told IPS.

If the draft resolution is eventually adopted by the 192- member U.N. General Assembly, “it would be one of the most important things the United Nations has done since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she said.

The two-page draft, described as “historic”, recognises “the human right to water and sanitation,” and is being initiated by Bolivia.

A final text of the draft, currently under discussions, is expected to be presented to the president of the General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, by the end of July – if it clears the political hurdles.

Speaking off-the-record, a diplomatic source told IPS: “This is something very dear to developing countries.”

It is true that there is actually no legal basis for declaring the right to water and sanitation as a basic universal human right, and issues like definitions and scope have to be worked out. He said the argument being made is there is already an ongoing process in Geneva that is meant to work on this, and that the General Assembly “is jumping the gun”.

“Overall, water and sanitation are such critical issues that we must work towards consensus on this resolution. Anything less than consensus would undermine the very importance we attach to them,” he warned.

Barlow pointed out that nearly two billion people live in water-stressed areas of the world and three billion have no running water within a kilometre of their homes.

In a letter sent to all 192 U.N. ambassadors, she said that when the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights was written, no one could foresee a day when water would be a contested area.

“But in 2010, it is not an exaggeration to say that the lack of access to clean water is the greatest human rights violation in the world,” said Barlow, who once served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the U.N. General Assembly in 2008-2009.

She said Canada has blocked even the most modest steps toward international recognition of the right to water and has worked behind the scenes to derail advancement toward a binding instrument.

Government officials have not explained their position except to say that such a convention might force Canada to share its water with the United States.

However, this is a complete “red herring” and the Stephen Harper government knows it, she added.

The truth is that a right to water convention at the U.N. would act as a counterweight to those who want to sell Canada’s water for profit and is a more likely explanation of Canada’s continued opposition, Barlow said.

Ann-Mari Karlsson of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) told IPS her organisation supports the human right to water and sanitation.

“But we concur with the views of the U.N. independent expert that the right to water and sanitation are components of the rights to an adequate standard of living and that these rights are protected under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” Karlsson said.

She said it is important that a U.N. resolution on the right to water and sanitation should state this clearly, “which as far as we can see, the current draft does not”.

What is more, the importance of sanitation in this context cannot be underestimated.

Karlsson said water and sanitation are closely linked, and the world is more off track to reach the Millennium Development Goals on access to sanitation than it is for access to water.

“There should be an adequate reflection of this in the resolution,” she added.

Anil Naidoo, also of the Blue Planet Project, has already briefed China and the 130-member Group of 77 developing countries in promoting the draft resolution.

“International and local community groups fighting for water justice have long been calling for leadership from the U.N. in clearly recognizing that water and sanitation are human rights,” said Naidoo.

“As this moves forward we are demanding that the language of the resolution remain strong and leave no doubt that water and sanitation are human rights,” he added.

Andersson of SIWI told IPS: “We are not against privatisation on principle. Our main concern is that the state should take its responsibility to regulate and monitor activities by private actors so that everyone has access to affordable drinking and household water and sanitation.”

Whether the provision of water and sanitation is carried out by public or private actors is not relevant to the status of water and sanitation as a human right, she declared.

Meanwhile, a coalition of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including the Council of Canadians, Food and Water Europe, Corporate Europe Observatory and the Blue Planet Project, has appealed to members of the European Parliament seeking their political support.

“In light of the European Union’s recognition of water as a human right, it will be crucial that the EU play a key role in promoting this key resolution at the United Nations,” says the letter.


thalif deen
un bureau chief & regional director
inter press service (IPS) news agency
room L-214, united nations
new york, ny 10017
el: 1-212-963-6156
Mumbai taxi driver talks about water problems in city

If you want to know the real truth, talk to the Taxi drivers. They live their lives on the streets and have their ears to the ground. I asked this Mumbai driver what he thought about the water issues , an here is a snippet from the conversation. Shot this on my flip cam

Local internet magazine fights back as mainstream media goes for sensationalism

Hamari Awaaz (our voice) is an issue based video magazine I found ( or my assistant Anish Patel did) on the internet. I don’t know much about it, but I can feel the depth of commitment of the young people involved. Neither looking for fame, not for a lot of money, nor carried by the sensationalism that drives mainstream press and tv stations today. They are driven by commitment to a cause, and the way we can support them is by viraling the magazine as many times as possible.

The video magazine should be called Hamari Asli Awaaz ( our true voice). This issue is about water privatization in Mumbai, an issue explored in my film Paani.

Is it a wonder that India’s roads are dangerous ?

Problem is that this looks like a lot of fun. And the problem is that it’s what I used to do when I was in college. On my lambretta as if even death could not touch me in the flush of youthful optimism and daring. What was it about us in those days ? What looks so foolish now, looked so daring and exciting then. Sometimes I wonder about my poor parents who used to get reports of my crazy antics on the Delhi roads. Always wondering if i would make it safely back from university everyday.

And I ? I loved the thrill of it. I still remember going down the wrong way on the ring road standing on my vulnerable little lambretta with my arms stretched wide. About to be crushed any second by an on coming bus or truck, daring death and accident.

Madness ? Stupidity ? Yes both. That’s one thing I will never ever let my daughter do, ride on someone else’s pillion. Because of the stupid things I got up to

This video was shot by Tara Bedi – budding film maker on the GT Highway between Delhi and Chandhigarh

Water as a weapon in battle against terrorism ?

Rabid nationalism may yet drive a nation to wage war against another through blocking water resources. China could do it to India through damming the Brahmaputra. Turkey could do it in the Middle East, and it is common knowledge that whoever hold Goan Hights also controls the flow of Water.

But I am talking about many of the suggestion on my twitter account and blog. That starving Pakistan of water is a way to control terrorism that originates from there. I am afraid that is not and never should be an option. The worldwide war on terror is not against the people of a nation, the children of a nation, but against the terror outfits that exist or are protected by that State. Even of it was considered a strategic option in a state of war, it would be a stupid one.

For the terror outfits, the military and the high command will be the first to draw for themselves whatever water resources they may have. Leaving the ordinary powerless civilians, women and children dying of thirst. Thereby driving more of them into a frenzy of fundamentalism and war. Three days of watching your kids die of thirst will drive you to extremism, however non violent or liberal you may be. Within India we are watching killings everyday over mere buckets of water at wells.

Using water as a weapon of war is a to set a precedence from which there is no escape. Expect it to be used against yourselves too. Over 100 million people in India depend upon the water that flows down from the glaciers of Tibet.

Using water as a weapon is the surest way of inviting an all out nuclear war. For it leaves no other option.

Thirsty Pakistan gasps for water solutions

Thirsty Pakistan gasps for water solutions
Experts say country is facing a water crisis that could see it run dry in several decades
Sahar Ahmed Karachi Reuters
Friday, Jun. 18, 2010 10:15AM EDT

Pakistan is facing a raging water crisis that if managed poorly could mean Pakistan would run out of water in several decades, experts say, leading to mass starvation and possibly war.

The reliance on a single river basin, one of the most inefficient agricultural systems in world, climate change and a lack of a coherent water policy means that as Pakistans population expands, its ability to feed it is shrinking.

Pakistan faces a raging water crisis,” said Michael Kugelman, program associate for South and Southeast Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

It has some of the lowest per capita water availability in Asia, and in the world as a whole.”

The vast majority – between 90 and 95 per cent – of Pakistans water is used for agriculture, the U.S. undersecretary for democracy and global affairs, Maria Otero, told Reuters. The average use in developing countries is between 70 and 75 per cent.

The remaining trickle is used for drinking water and sanitation for Pakistans 180 million people.

According to Mr. Kugelman, more than 55 million Pakistanis lack access to clean water and 30,000 die each year just in Karachi, Pakistans largest city, from unsafe water.

Of the available water today, 40 percent of it gets used,” Ms. Otero said. The rest is wasted through seepage and other means.”

Ms. Otero was in Islamabad as part of the first meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Water Working Group.

Pakistans Indus river basin is supplied by melting snow and glaciers from the Himalayas. A recent report in the journal Science by Walter W. Immerzeel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands said the Indus could lose large amounts of its flow because of climate change.

Both India and Pakistan make use of the Indus, with the river managed under a 1960 water treaty. Pakistan has lately begun accusing India of taking more than its fair share from the headwaters by building a number of dams and waging water war against its downstream neighbour. India denies this.

If the current rate of climate change continues and Pakistan continues to rely on the inefficient flood system of irrigation, by 2050, it will be able to feed between 23-29 million fewer people than it can today with approximately double its current population.

The United States hopes to encourage Pakistan to modernize its agricultural system and plant less water-thirsty crops. Ms. Otero said Pakistan and the United States are also exploring ways to improve the storage of water and Pakistan must look at ways to charge more for water as a way of encouraging conservation.

Such measures would likely be unpopular in the desperately poor nation. Measures to reduce subsidies on electricity, as mandated by the International Monetary Fund, amid chronic power shortages have battered the already unsteady civilian government.

Pakistan needs to either pass land reform or a series of laws to govern proper water allocation, Mr. Kugelman said.

If nothing is done, the water crisis will continue, no matter how many canals are repaired or dams constructed,” he said.

Paani adviser Maude Barlow : The world has divided itself between rich and the poor…

Worlds most renowned water activist Maude Barlow gives a fiery and factual speech at the Earth Summit in response to the G 20 Summit meeting at Toronto. Maude is one of the biggest supporters and adviser to our film Paani. It is a speech worth listening to as it drives home many truths,

What does it take to become an Actor ?

This is a question I am often asked and want to answer it as truthfully as I can

You must want to be beyond the needs of being accepted as being glamorous and beautiful. Looking for acceptance from other people is to put yourself at the doorstep of unhappiness. Acting is not an indulgence. Do not do it unless the passion is for the art of acting, even if that is expressed through stage, and no matter how small the exposure is – even street theatre. The passion to express stories through the process of acting should be paramount rather than aspiring to live and emulate the lives of the people photographed in the Bombay Times. Do not be led by falsehood. I am presenting to you the answer to the question “what does it take to become an actor” – not what does it take to become a star. For that there are enough people teaching acting in 3 months.

Acting takes incredible discipline. You body is the instrument through which you express yourself, like a violin is the violinists instrument. It takes years of discipline to create mastery over your body and voice. It takes years of introspection and hard work to learn how to use the inherent emotions in you, to be able transfer them seamlessly to your mind and emotion and from there seamlessly to your body and voice. The discipline and riyaz of an actor is no less than that of a classical dancer.

Moments of absolute truth are the most satisfying moments in any art, and the only way you know them, or recognize them, are because you feel closer to something infinite, some power beyond yourself that seems to be in control of your emotions, you body, your heart, your mind.

Those are the moments to aspire to and just a few in your lifetime will make you a true artist.

You asked me a a question about the art of acting I assume and not the commerce. The second I know nothing about and do not care to. You go to the Gym, get great pictures taken, discover your best angles, and go to parties to network. Get a six pack or a great body and go to photographers that know how to exploit those assets and then later photo shop them into perfection. Being attractive on the outside may be important , but the art of acting is to be attractive on the inside.

Elizabeth and Golden Age : Mythology and Melodrama

Question “‘you make a distinction in your audio commentary of “The Golden Age” between mysticism and melodrama (one being a product of the East and the other of the West). I wonder if you might elaborate on this for me’

Mythology are the stories that are buried deep inside ourselves, that struggle to connect our finite imagination to to that which seems or is infinite. Till science came along with logical reasons for lightening and clouds, they were part of our Myths (and often still are) with Gods letting forth a series of lightening strikes and roaring in anger. However all cultures in their struggle to comprehend infinite questions like the nature of the universe, the reason for our here, the miracles of birth , of death, of falling in love, betrayal and even possibilities of afterlife, have developed mythologies/stories to explain these. Often these migrate from Mythology into faith.

What differs between the West and the East is the openness of expression of such Mythic events. For example in the West you are taught to be silent and not to cry when someone dies, while in India we have ‘rudali’s’ that come to encourage to openly sob and express you grief. In this age of reason Western filmakers (for example) are often shy of expressing human reaction to such mythic events, calling it Melodrama – while films in the east tend to more expressive and accepting about ‘Mythic’ events and therefore the ‘Melodramatic’ nature of the presentation, the story and the performances. That sense of Myth then permeates all aspects of filmaking – the design, the costumes, the lighting and the shots. And of course the story telling.

In both Elizabeth and it’s sequel the Golden Age I realized that we were dealing with times before ‘the age of reason’ or the age of ’scientific temper’ had set into England. The Industrial revolution had yet to come, as had the proliferation of the British Empire. Arrogance of the mind and ego, led by conquest of the seas and manufacture had yet to set in. The tudor period therefore was to me what film critics call ‘melodramatic’ and I saw a culture largely in synch with it’s inherent mythic nature. After all Elizabeth herself was constantly relying on astrological predictions and had used ‘virginity’ as a mythic idea beyond the realms of the loss of the hymen.

So I brought my inherent Mythic sense to a film genre’ that was considered to be more much about Costumes, Royal and Court politics and (most of all) wit. And turned it around to look at it from it’s own melodramatic point of view. After all with intrigue and death always around the corner , and when life expectancy in the court was about 27, .how could you not be superstitious or mythic in your thinking ?

In Elizabeth it seemed to completely in synch with the writing performance etc. It was a woman moving from youth, love and childhood, to power, ruthlessness, monarchy but most importantly Divinity. Declaring yourself a virgin an then walking through the court, seperating yourself from the human form forever, and declaring your self Divine – in India she would have been called a Devi and still happens everyday. How mythic/melodramatic is that ?

The second one – The Golden Age – ran into difficulty. To my mind Elizabeth was now Divine,even if only in her own mid. How did she now comprehend herself falling n love ? being jealous ? Having sexual desire ? How does all of that affect your sense of Divinity ? Did she see her enemy Phillip as divine too ? All pretty mythic stuff – or you can call it melodramatic if you are a pure historian. And that’s where the film did not reach the expectations the first one had set up. There was an ongoing tussle between normalcy of a man/woman love story, as against the need to see it from a Divine perspective, Also between History and Mythology, which a lot of critics called Melodrama.

What I would say though is that any culture that is not in day to day touch with it’s own mythology, is a culture that will build tension and be open to exploitation – such as the rise of dangerous cults and creation of mythic evil figures to satisfy their need for connecting with their sense of mythology.

As I write this the news flashed that the next film in the Twilight series (Eclipse) has grossed an all time record of $ 30m in one night ! Now I would say a love story between a a young girl and a sexy vampire is pretty Melodramatic – or would you call it Mythic ?

What does a teacher make ?

this was sent to me by Kiran karnik and given the campaign everywhere on teaching and teachers, is worth a read.

A Teacher Answers…

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with ?education. He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a?teacher?”

To stress his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. ?Be honest. What do you make?”

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,

“You want to know what I make?”
(She paused for a second, then began…)

“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their
parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an I Pod,
Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make? (She paused again and looked
at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn’t everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math. They use their God
given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything
they need to know about English while preserving their
unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to
say the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ to the Flag,?One Nation Under
God, because we live in the United States of America .

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they
were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

( Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make Mr. CEO?”

His jaw dropped; he went silent.

Even all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers,
sisters, coaches and your spiritual leaders/teachers.

A profound answer!!!