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Declare water a human right

Activists who have gathered in New Delhi to attend a water meet on January 12 called for the declaration of water as a human right. Some participants like Danielle Mitterand, former first lady of France, said every time a country adopted a defence budget, one per cent of it should be allocated for water.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2004 12:51 IST

Activists who have gathered in the city from around the globe to attend the water meet on January 12 called for the declaration of water as a human right.

Secretary-general of the international committee for the global water contract, Riccardo Petrella, Danielle Mitterand, wife of former French Prime Minister Francois Mitterand, Canadian activists Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, Danuta Sacher from Germany and environmental activist from India Vandana Shiva said that governments should enact legislations so that every person should get water as a right.

Petrella said that a large number of parliamentarians and NGOs, including those from Europe, were signatories to the Rome declaration last year where activists had declared water as a human right. He said that this movement would be taken forward so that governments are pressured to legislate on water as a basic human right. The former first lady of France has been involved with water issues for the past four years. She said that whenever a country adopts a defence budget, one per cent of this budget should be allocated to ensuring the minimum 40 litres-a-day of water needed to sustain a human life, free of cost to every citizen.

The activists said that water privatisation and commercialisation was being effected through international trade agreements and that there was an urgent need to educate people about its adverse impact. Dr Barlow said that the Canadian Government had been sued for several billion dollars simply because it had stopped commercial export of water under the free trade agreement. Tony Clarke of Canada said that as the water acquifiers in USA were drying up, there was a scheme to change the course of the rivers flowing towards the North Pole and turning them around towards the South. Large scale river linking and canal projects like these will cause ecological disaster, Clarke said.

Giving the example of Delhi, Dr Shiva said that the Delhi government will be providing free raw water from the Ganga and free electricity to Degremont for maintaining and operating the Sonia Vihar water treatment plant. The treated water will then be purchased at a very high cost from the company by the Delhi government which would amount to cheating the public exchequer, she said.

About 300 participants from 70 countries are taking part in the People's World Water Forum which has been jointly organised by the Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology and Water Workers Alliance.

First Published: Jan 16, 2004 12:51 IST