Wednesday, July 28, 2010

UN declares access to clean water a human right

General Assembly declares access to clean water and sanitation is a
human right

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

The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and
international organizations to offer funding, technology and other
resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide
clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone.

The Assembly resolution received 122 votes in favour and zero votes
against, while 41 countries abstained from voting.

The text of the resolution expresses deep concern that an estimated 884
million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more
than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies
also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each
year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and
sanitation-related diseases.

Today's resolution also welcomes the UN Human Rights Council's request
that Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of
human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and
sanitation, report annually to the General Assembly as well.

Ms. de Albuquerque's report will focus on the principal challenges to
achieving the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, as
well as on progress towards the relevant Millennium Development Goals

The MDGs, a series of targets for reducing social and economic ills, all
by 2015, includes the goals of halving the proportion of people who
cannot reach or afford safe drinking water and halving the number who do
not have basic sanitation.

In a related development, Ms. de Albuquerque issued a statement today
after wrapping up a nine-day official visit to Japan in which she
praised the country for its nearly universal access to water and
sanitation and for its use of innovative technologies to promote hygiene
and treat wastewater.

But the Independent Expert said she was shocked that some members of the
Utoro community near Kyoto, where Koreans have been living for several
generations, still do not have access to water from the public network.

"People are also not connected to the sewage network, despite the fact
that the surrounding area is largely covered by sewage service," she
said. "When floods occur, as happened one year ago, the lack of sewage
and proper evacuation of grey water result in contamination of the
environment, including with human faeces, posing serious health concerns.

"I am also worried that water and sanitation are extremely expensive for
some people living in Utoro, who reportedly do not have a right to
receive a pension."

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