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NEWS: Harper says clean water “not controversial, not expensive”

The Globe and Mail reports today that Prime Minister Stephen Harper “listed off clean water” and said “there are… not controversial things, things that are not expensive” that “can make a real significant difference” to help women and children in developing countries.

Harper was speaking at a G8/ G20 National Youth Caucus meeting in Ottawa with 120 Canadian youth participants.

He was fending off criticisms of his refusal to support abortion as part of his stated G8/ G20 maternal health priority.

Harper has previously said that the cost of providing clean water “is within the reach” of any of the G8 countries.

And yet Harper still refuses to recognize the right to water at the United Nations.

The Council of Canadians recently told United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that this is one of the reasons why Canada should not have a UN Security Council seat.

For 30 years Canada hosted the Global Environment Monitoring System, which assesses more than 3,000 freshwater sites around the world and supplies 24 United Nations agencies with vital information to assess water policy. In early 2008, Environment Canada decided that it would no longer fund this program.

After critical media coverage, the Harper government announced it would fund about half its past commitment.

And while the prime minister will emphasize “champion(ing) values like freedom, democracy and human rights” at the summits, in Afghanistan, for example, the United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that only 23 percent of its estimated 27 million people have access to clean drinking water and that annually up to 50,000 children die from diarrhoeal diseases in that country.

CLIMATE CHANGE, MELTING GLACIERS MEAN LESS ACCESS TO WATER It should also be noted that Harper’s continued promotion of the heavy carbon-emitting tar sands and inaction on climate change impacts the right to water around the world.

One impact has been noted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They have observed that, “Water supplies stored in glaciers and snow cover are projected to decline, reducing water availability in regions supplied by meltwater.”

Elyzabeth Peredo of the Fundacion Solon recently stated at the climate conference in Cochabamba that, “70 million people could lack access to water in this region in the coming years because of the melting of the Andean glaciers. Glacial melt is the most visible impact of climate change.”

To read Maude Barlow and Meera Karunananthan’s recent op-ed on maternal health and the right to water in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, please go to www.canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3540.