human right to water
Last week I met with the BC’s Minister of Environment Mary Polak, the Assistant Deputy Minister Kaaren Lewis and Manager of Watershed Sustainability Ian Graeme to talk about the Water Sustainability Act.
Statistics Canada released updated numbers to their water yield study today. In 2010, it released a study that found that there was an 8.5% decrease in renewable water sources – water from rain and snow – from 1971-2004.
Today the Grassy Narrows First Nation declared a state of emergency over unsafe drinking water conditions in the community. The community has started delivering bottled water door to door to ensure that their families, many of which have already been impacted by mercury poisoning, have safe drinking water.
In March, the beleaguered—some would say besieged—city of Detroit, Michigan announced it would begin shutting off water services to between 1,500 and 3,000 households every week. It seemed impossible at the time but officials quickly made good on the promise. Detroit, the former industrial powerhouse of one of the world’s richest countries, has seen better days. But water is an essential social service, a necessity of life, and the city lies in the middle of the Great Lakes, the world’s largest body of freshwater. How could the taps possibly run dry?
Detroit’s water crisis has drawn international attention in recent weeks putting a spotlight on the water cut-off program being pursued by the city. Organizations on the ground have been calling for an end to the cut-offs since March when the city announced it would begin shutting off water services to 1,500 to 3,000 households every week. Following a report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation submitted by the Blue Planet Project/Council of Canadians and Detroit groups, Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque warned that the mass water shut-offs were a violation of human rights.
After mounting pressure the city announced a 15-day suspension on new shut-offs yet groups continue to call for the shut offs to end permanently.
Canadian water convoy
Today the Council of Canadians stood shoulder to shoulder with allies from the local environmental movement, frontline community members, fishing associations and two First Nations bands in opposition to the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project.
Over the weekend, more than 300 community organizers and activists gathered in Detroit for the International Social Movements Gathering on Water Rights and Housing Rights. The gathering was organized by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition and brought together activists from across the United States, as well as Canada, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico. Over the course of the weekend, participants discussed strategies and solutions to demand water and housing affordability for all people, grounded in the conviction that water is a human right. The Council of Canadians was there in solidarity and to strategize on protecting the human right to water.