Monday, December 01, 2008

Access to water must be high on climate agenda

Access to water must be high on climate agenda

Access to water is a basic human right and should be high on the agenda of climate change talks in Poland next week, the head of an Italian advocacy group said on Friday.

With more than 1 billion people having no access to safe water, the World Water Contract group for years has sought to make availability of water a basic right and add it to the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Given that water is threatened by climate change, it is time to include the human right to water in (the new climate) protocol," Emilio Molinari, chairman of the group's Italian branch, told Reuters on the margins of a water conference.

Molinari said his group would lobby the United Nations to add water access rights to the climate change debate next week in Poznan, Poland.

About 190 countries will meet there to lay the groundwork for a global deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.

Molinari said his non-profit organisation would try to ensure guarantee rights to water access are included in the final climate deal, widely expected in December 2009.
"One of our strategic objectives is to insert the right to water in the climate change protocol as a fundamental element," he said.

The battle for access to water has never been easy and would become more difficult with the global credit crunch, because the lion's share of public funds would be channelled to rescue banks and big corporations, he said.

"They (authorities) will play a recession card. They will say: 'There is no money for public interventions, all should go to help companies to recover... We need to scrap environmental target'," he said.

Previous efforts by human rights and environmental activists to improve water access largely have run aground due to lack of public funds and the resistance of multinational water companies which want to control water resources, he said.

Molinari said about $10 billion a year is needed to meet the UN Millennium Goal Campaign's target of halving the proportion of people with no access to safe drinking water by 2015, but only about five percent of required funds has been raised.

Today begins the second round of climate talks by the UN in Poznan, Poland in an attempt to come to an agreement regarding limits on greenhouse gas emissions on the road to Copenhagen in December 2009. Last year, the talks in Bali had people hopeful with actually little to anything of substance happening, and nothing concerning water as a human right or as part of the climate agenda was addressed.

Now, once again the opportunity exists to bring forth water and safe access to potable water as a chief concern in Poznan. However, reports claim that due to a worldwide financial crunch there is not much hope for the outcome of these talks to produce much of substance regarding the environment as a whole, let alone place water as the priority it must now be.

This is what happens when you place the fate of the planet in the hands of a few politicians and corporate benefactors who only see profit coming from the climate and water crises. When the melting of the Arctic is only seen as another opportunity to plunder the very oil that has exacerbated the melting in the first place over doing what is morally right to preserve our planet for all, it speaks volumes about what these governments really consider important.

Around the globe we see millions of people suffering from the effects of unnecessary diseases due to unpotable toxic water. We see girls being deprived of an education because they must spend hours everyday in dangerous conditions fetching water for their families, many times water that is polluted and in short supply. We see glaciers worldwide melting at an unprecedented pace breaking all scientists' predictions, thus placing billions of people worldwide at risk of dwindling water supplies which bring with it famine, disease, privitization of water by multinationals, and the poverty that keeps those in third world countries at the mercy of those very multinationals and the governments that cater to them.

How this current global crisis regarding water and water access could not be a top priority of such a meeting only proves that these meetings are not for the benefit of the environment or the people as a whole. They are for the benefit of the governments looking to gain profit from the misery of others. It is all well and good that organizations such as the one mentioned in this article wish to bring the water crisis to the attention of these meetings. However, I believe it is only through citizen activism that this will be given the attention it deserves. Leaving it only in the hands of those who precipitated the financial crisis to begin with and the climate change we now see causing repurcussions worldwide will not do anything for the over one billion people who need access to clean water now.

It must be us who brings this to fruition. Through our words, our actions, our activism, our caring, and our standing up to the governments seeking to ignore this the most crucial environmental issue of the 21st century.

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