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The right to water and sanitation in Brazil

The United Nations News Centre reports, “Brazilian authorities need to give further priority to the poorest and most marginalized, to ensure that inequalities in the country are progressively eliminated and all receive access to sanitation and water, an independent United Nations human rights expert urged. Wrapping up her first official mission to Brazil, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, said that Brazil was a ‘country of contrasts.'”

The article highlights, “In the area of sanitation, the expert explained, ‘the low coverage does not match the advances of modern Brazil, where 52 per cent of the Brazilian population still doesn’t have sewage collection, and only 38 per cent of the sewage generated is treated.’ ‘The fact that Brazil still has almost 8 million people defecating daily in the open is unacceptable and an affront to human dignity,’ Ms. de Albuquerque stressed. This lack of access to sanitation is particularly serious in the North, where less than 10 per cent of the population has sewage collection.”

“During her fact-finding mission to Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Fortaleza and Belém do Pará, the Special Rapporteur also received numerous complaints of people suffering from diarrhoea and other water and sanitation-borne diseases due to the bad quality of water.”

“She will present a comprehensive report to a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will include her final findings and recommendations to the Government of Brazil.”

Maude Barlow’s book Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever is set to be published in Brazil and will undoubtedly be a welcome contribution to the water justice movement there. In her book, Barlow highlights Brazil’s support for the UN resolution on the right to water and sanitation (page 31) and its non-participation in bilateral investment treaties (page 230), but also notes its fast-tracking of approvals for water use for mining and other unsustainable water intensive practices (page 260), the use of water for the production of biofuels in Brazil (page 177-79), the impact of virtual water exports in Brazil (page 168), and the growing threat of desertification there (page 16).

Further reading:
Barlow to speak in defence of the Guarani aquifer
Maude Barlow’s speech in Florianópolis, Brazil
Maude Barlow in Brazil
Barlow and RLA Laureates mourn the killing of Cicero Guedes
Right Livelihood notes rise in violence against social activists in Brazil
Brazil notes water in its zero draft submission for Rio+20