WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT ISSUE
- Water as a human right is as much about the quality, making sure that the water is clean and you do not get sick from drinking it, as it is about access.
- Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals
- The right to water is not specifically mentioned in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, without access to water, other rights could not be exercised such as the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being” and the fact that “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.”
- In 2010, the UN General Assembly declared access to water as a human right in a landmark resolution. “Everyone has the right to water, no matter where he/she lives“.
- Having recognized safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right, pressure is now on local and national authorities to provide a better infrastructure for drains and clean water.
- For many of those who have access to water, it is either too expensive or suitable for consumption, often exposed to dangerous levels of biological contaminants and chemical pollutants partly due to inadequate management of urban, industrial or agricultural waste water. Simply put, for many people water is not yet a human right.
- Access to safe water should no longer be seen as a service, but as a human right. States and organizations should work towards using economic resources and technology to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable water particularly in the developing countries.
- There is certainly no time to waste in taking action. Water challenges will increase significantly in the coming years due to the fact that population growth and rising incomes will lead to greater water consumption, as well as more waste. The urban population in developing countries will grow dramatically, generating demand well beyond the capacity of already inadequate water supply and sanitation infrastructure and services.
- According to the UN World Water Development Report, by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of freshwater.
WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT IN INDIA
- In India, water is a concurrent subject being dealt with by both Central and State Governments.
- Apart from availability, the main problem in India is that of water quality.
- More than 21% of communicable diseases in India are due to unsafe water which also is the single largest reason for child mortality in 0-5 age group.
- In fact, one will be hard pressed to identify even one major or medium Indian urban centre where people can safely drink water from taps supplied by municipalities without additional treatments at homes.
- The phenomenal growth of the bottled water industry in India is the direct result of poor water quality.
- The present trend to treat water as a human right is basically for drinking.
- However, globally, less than 8% of water is used for drinking. In India, it is even significantly less. For countries of India and Egypt, 90% of water is used for agriculture.
- No food or electricity can be produced without water. Yet water required for agriculture production and electricity generation do not come under human right consideration.
- People cannot survive without food and food cannot be produced without water.
- In fact, many experts suggest that such a right should not be limited to just drinking water, but should include the right to water for livelihoods and for social and cultural needs also. While this may still be some way off, one can now at least hope for a quick recognition of the right to drinking water and sanitation as a fundamental right of its own standing.
WATER AS HUMAN RIGHTS IN CONTEXT OF DISTRIBUTION BETWEEN RIPARIAN STATES
Riparian water rights is a system for allocating water among those who possess land along its path.
Under the riparian principle, all landowners whose property adjoins a body of water have the right to make reasonable use of it as it flows through or over their property. If there is not enough water to satisfy all users, allotments are generally fixed in proportion to frontage on the water source. These rights cannot be sold or transferred other than with the adjoining land and only in reasonable quantities associated with that land. The water cannot be transferred out of the watershed without due consideration as to the rights of the downstream riparian landowners.
Riparian rights include such things as
- right to access for swimming, boating and fishing
- the right to wharf out to a point of navigability
- the right to erect structures such as docks, piers, and boat lifts
- the right to use the water for domestic purposes
- the right to accretions caused by water level fluctuations
- the right to exclusive use if the waterbody is non-navigable.
Riparian rights also depend upon “reasonable use” as it relates to other riparian owners to ensure that the rights of one riparian owner are weighed fairly and equitably with the rights of adjacent riparian owners.
- Right to water is a fundamental right under Right to life Under Article 21.
- Water use in a state invariably has a detrimental effect on other states’ water resources leading to river water sharing disputes.
- Though the Central Government has enacted Interstate River water disputes act Act 1956 U/A 262 , the creation of new states poses problem as seen in case of Telangana where Telangana claims that it doesn’t have adequate water allocation from Krishna river for its people and Other states should honour the Right of Telengana people to have adequate water as it is a Human Right but other states oppose as they say the Rights of Telangana were represented by unified Andhra Pradesh.
- As Populations in all Riparian states are increasing, there is greater and greater demand for river water
- Due to the vagaries of monsoon and climate change , the states are under extreme pressure as most of them are water scarce. This is leading to protracted litigations.
- There is need for a Law imposing on states to adopt Rainwater Harvesting and Watershed Development practices.
- Mantra of Save, Reuse and Recycle needs to be adopted
Along with above measures, centre should provide for equitable distribution of water among riparian states and overcome disputes which has been arising due to water scarcity. States should also cooperate with the Centre and use only that amount of water which is allocated to it.