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Right to Water

Right to Water

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National Law Institute University

Project work on Right to Water


Submitted to

Submitted By

Dr. Uday Pratap Singh Associate Professor (Law Relating to Rural Development)

Pooja Vijayvargiya Roll No (2008) BA.LL.B. – 42

As part of Human Rights Law


Topic Introduction Right to water: International Covenants Right to water: Indian Scenario Privatisation of water Arguments against privatisation Conclusion Bibliography Page No. Social and Cultural Rights in its Twenty-ninth session at Geneva ( General Comment No. 5. But unfortunately. earth and fire) essential to life.S. Water is fundamentally different from other resources for the reasons that: it is one of the four elements of the Ancients (along with air. Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health. 6. 3 4 7 9 12 15 16 Introduction Water is essential to human life. approximately 884 million people lack access 1 Committee on Economic. No. 4. 7. 2. 15) Page | 2 . 3. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. 1. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights1.

are living (rather forced to live) in conditions of severe poverty devoid of any meaningful living conditions.ch/tbs/doc. In such a scenario.and sanitation-related diseases2. social.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation. in the two most important concerns for the well being of people in any society: (income) poverty and access to clean drinking water and sanitation. India has lagged behind.org/water/wwap/news/archives/UNDecWaterHR_EN. despite constitutional mandates and official proclamations.pdf) Page | 3 . • The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): Article 6 of the ICCPR states: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. Keeping the above in mind.5 million children under 5 years of age die and 443 million school days are lost each year as a result of water. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. and a continued resistance to the recognition of economic and social rights. Right to Water: International Covenants Right to water had not been included in UDHR because it was felt that it is inessential to express such a right which is so basic in nature. Millions of Indians.p df) 2 United Nations General Assembly Draft Resolution on The human right to water and sanitation. ICCPR does not expressly provide for right to water. to advance a human rights-based approach to access to water. in particular in developing nations. and environmental aspects of the world-water-crisis . 26 July.” Water once again is not explicitly mentioned in (http://www. especially women and children.unhchr. I have also dealt in with the debate about privatization of water in India. and approximately 1. Across the globe there are rising concerns about the economic.to safe drinking water and more than 2.Related issues are inequities in access to water resources. 2010 (http://www.nsf/0/a5458d1d1bbd713fc1256cc400389e94/$FILE/G0340229. the privatization of water. among others. a discussion on right to drinking water in India assumes relevance in this context. The increasing scarcity of water has resulted in efforts both internationally and domestically.unesco. This right shall be protected by law. I have in this project analyzed the situation of right to water in the international and domestic context.

This obligation includes. “Article 11. The right to water clearly falls within the category of guarantees essential for securing an adequate standard of living. food preparation. inter alia. affordable and accessible drinking water that is adequate for individual requirements (drinking. in its twenty-ninth session (General Comment No. and polluting and inequitably extracting water resources. paragraph 1. of the Covenant specifies a number of rights emanating from. Social and Cultural Rights. The obligation to protect requires State parties to prevent third parties from interfering in any way with the enjoyment of the right to drinking water. affordability. The General Comment has further elaborated the important provisions of the right with respect to safety.p df) Page | 4 .nsf/0/a5458d1d1bbd713fc1256cc400389e94/$FILE/G0340229. refraining from engaging in any practice or activity that denies or limits equal access to adequate drinking water. for example. adopting the necessary and effective legislative and other measures to restrain.3” It clearly stated that safe drinking water is fundamental for life and health and it 'is a precondition for the realization of all human rights'.the final document of the Covenant but it has been argued that the right to life implies the right to the fundamental conditions necessary to support life. third parties from denying equal access to adequate drinking water. This obligation includes. household sanitation. sufficiency. protect and fulfill on States parties. Social and Cultural Rights: The Committee on Economic. 3 Committee on Economic. 12. has explicitly declared right to water as a fundamental right under right to life and placed several obligations on State parties to ensure and enable the citizens to realize the right. accessibility etc.ch/tbs/doc. 15). • International Covenant on Economic. particularly since it is one of the most fundamental conditions for survival The right to water is also inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of health (art. and hygiene'. The obligation to respect requires that States parties refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right to drinking water. Every citizen is entitled 'to safe. 1) and the rights to adequate housing and adequate food Article. sufficient. the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living “including adequate food.unhchr. para. Social and Cultural Rights in its Twenty-ninth session at Geneva ( General Comment No. 11. 15) (http://www. and indispensable for. inter alia. The right to water imposes obligations to respect. clothing and housing”.

4 5 Article 14 of CEDAW http://www.The obligation to fulfill requires State parties to adopt the necessary measures directed towards the full realization of the right to drinking water. The General Comment categorically states: 'water should never be used as an instrument of political and economic pressure'. United States. said that the resolution text described the right to water and sanitation in a way not reflected in existing international law. transport and communication4 • Resolution by UN General Assembly The GA adopted a resolution recognizing the access to clean water and sanitation on 28th July. There is no enforcement mechanism. electricity and water supply. No individual shall be deprived of minimum essential level of drinking water under any circumstances. sanitation. which abstained from voting. India also voted in favour of the resolution.doc. inter alia. ensuring that the right is affordable for everyone particularly in rural and deprived urban areas. the text had not been drafted in a transparent manner. the right to health (including environmental hygiene) and the right to work. aspects of the right to food. 2010. noting that the legal implications of a declared right to water had not yet been fully considered. it was adopted by a vote of 122 in favour to none against. it states that it 'should be deferred until an effective regulatory system is in place that is in conformity with the Covenant and this General Comment'. The importance of water has been stressed in the realization of all other Covenant rights.un. Moreover. countries are merely required to take steps subject to “the maximum of [their] available resources” • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women : It has an explicit reference to right to water. Put forward by Bolivia and sponsored by 35 other nations. This includes. particularly in relation to housing. with 41 abstentions5. General Comment 15 does not explicitly recognize the enforceability of a right to water. it said. inter alia. However. Article 14 clearly states that the state has a duty to ensure women the right to: (h) To enjoy adequate living conditions.org/News/Press/docs/2010/ga10967.htm Page | 5 . according sufficient recognition of the right within the national political and legal systems to realize the right. On privatization of water services. It includes.

the increasing role of society groups and judicial interventions led to the recognition of right to water in India. accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.Amongst other things. that “water is the basic need Page | 6 . the Supreme Court stated in Narmada Bachao Andolan. Public Interest Litigation played an important role in this development. in particular to developing countries. But with the advent of the international treaties. Right to water : Indian Scenario Right to water has not been expressly declared as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution.  While upholding the Indian government’s decision to construct over 3. in order to scale up efforts to provide safe. The fundamental right to water has evolved in India.000 dams on the river Narmada. through international assistance and cooperation. clean. Calls upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources. not through legislative action but through judicial interpretation. Declares the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. capacitybuilding and technology transfer. the Resolution : 1. 2. The scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution was widened to include right to water as a fundamental right.

”6  In M. but should also help realize the right to healthy water and prevent health hazards. water. Although non-justiciable. that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub serve the common good . It also emphasizes India’s obligation to respect international law11.R. Union of India. . A. direct its policy towards securing . Kamal Nath. . .C. C.9” The Constitution obliges the State and all citizens to protect the environment10. 6 7 Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India. . . Mehta v. the Supreme Court of held that the right to live 'includes the right of enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life. Thus. and the interpretation of constitutional rights8.I. 2000 S. . In addition. providing every citizen with adequate clean drinking water and protecting water from getting polluted is a fundamental Directive Principle in the governance of the State as well as a fundamental right under Article 21.C. they are fundamental to the formulation of public policy. in particular.  In M. S. the Supreme Court of India recognized that groundwater is a public asset. and that citizens have the right to the use of air. and earth as protected under Article 21 of the Constitution. and cultural rights under the Directive Principles of State Policy.for the survival of the human beings and is part of right of life and human rights as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India . Mehta v Kamalnath7 the Supreme Court categorically ruled that the State is not only bound to regulate water supply. and thus a fundamental right. in the Indian Constitution. 375 M. Mehta v. 388 8 Article 37 of Indian Constitution 9 Article 39(b) 10 Article 51A(g) 11 Article 51© Page | 7 . (1997) 1 Suppl. If anything endangers or impairs that quality of life in derogation of laws. .C. governance.  In State of Karnataka v State of Andhra Pradesh (2000) the Court held that the right to water is a right to life. .  In Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar (1991).C. social.C. the Constitution recognizes economic. Article 39 (b) provides: “The State shall. a citizen has right to have recourse to Article 32 of the Constitution for removing the pollution of water or air which may be detrimental to the quality of life'.

and waste water treatment in a community. large-scale changes have been initiated in India’s economy with the liberalization. This extended to the water sector as well. The water management service may include collection. privatisation and globalisation of almost every aspect of the economy.Privatisation of water: the debate What is Privatisation of water? Water privatization involves transferring of water control and/or water management services to private companies. Traditionally this service has been provided by the local governmental infrastructure such as the municipality or local city council. Background Since 1991. distribution of water. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have started demanding Page | 8 . purification. This was further aggravated by pro-privatisation institutions like IMF and World Bank etc.

They provide loans for funding most of these water projects. According to the project document. Tamil Nadu: The New Tiruppur Area Development Corporation Ltd. development and management of water resources projects'.6 million residents in Tiruppur and its surrounding area. NTADCL issued a contract for the which would transfer water over a 55km long pipeline from the river Bhavani and supply 185 million liters of water per day to nearly 1. Furthermore. However. The National Water Policy (2002) of the Government of India has reflected the changing paradigm in the water sector and included encouragement of 'private sector participation in the planning. it is argued that opening this sector to private providers will bring in badly needed capital for upgrading and development of infrastructure. (NTADCL) was set up by the state government in 1995 to execute a Rs 13 billion water supply project. with financial support from USAID and the World Bank. this venture was to run at a "fixed operation and maintenance fee" that will be recovered entirely from Tiruppur municipality. Shivnath River. Tiruppur. They give the logic that while water subsidies promote wasteful practices. in an effort to woo further corporate capital investment in the state. Privatisation has also been encouraged by the five-year plans of the govt. Major projects in India which have been under criticism :1. the Tamil Nadu government has guaranteed profitability to the investors in the project by creating a hedge fund to pay the interest and operative expenses of the project in the event of a water shortage in the Bhavani river. which in turn will reduce water consumption and promote water conservation. Chhattisgarh: Page | 9 . They encourage treating water as an economic asset. commodification of water should allow market forces (supply and demand) to set the water tariff.water deregulation in several countries as part of their lending conditions.000 textile units and more than 1. with no stipulations on amount of water withdrawal from the river for this project. especially the Eighth and Tenth Plan. 2.

a 23. commissioned the project to meet the demand on water in the Borai Industrial area situated on the banks of the Shivnath . the increased tariff meant less water access. under which the company had absolute monopoly over the stretch of river water. New Delhi: Degremont – a subsidiary of the French water giant Suez – has been awarded a Rs 2 billion contract under a 10 year agreement with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) for a drinking water treatment plant in Sonia Vihar near New Delhi. the amount it will get as a fee for treating the water will be much in excess of what the DJB will charge the consumers when selling the water. Soon after bagging the contract the companies raised the water tariff to $20 per month and imposed permits for collecting rain water on roofs. Degremont has been kept free from transmission losses and revenue collection and has also been assured the purchase of treated water and productivity incentives once the plant begins operations. Radius Water’s monopolistic deal with CSIDC and the water resources department covered ground water as well in an 18 km-radius covering the Borai industrial area. The DJB is also providing Degremont with land. The company promptly prohibited fishing in the stretch of the river and also charged local farmers for access to water from tubewells. Mass local protests organized into a coalition in defense of water and life. Page | 10 . Bolivia privatized the water subsystem in its third largest city Cochabamba in 1999 and granted a 40-year concession to run the water system to Italy based International Water Company and US based Bechtel. The experience of Bolivia is known to the world: Bolivia: Responding to the World Bank structural adjustment policies. While Degremont is getting the raw water for free through pipelines from the Upper Ganga canal of the Tehri Dam project. 3. The Delhi Jal Board. At the same time. has not made public any of the project documents. All the above projects have been the centre of protests since their inception.The Chhattisgarh State Industries Development Corporation (CSIDC).a non-perennial river. which does not rule out an increase in water price for the residents of New Delhi. electricity and treatment cost. The experiences of privatisation in other countries of the world haven’t been appraised. For the majority with earnings of less than $65 per month. Furthermore. Bechtel is now suing the nation of Bolivia for $25 million dollars for canceling the contract. the government cancelled the contract with private companies.6 km stretch of the river was ceded to Radius Water through a 22-year renewable contract. Degremont. After weeks of intense protests. As part of the project.

In contrast. Not only is the capital cost divided among all the consumers but also the interest. The companies recover their costs and expenses by charging the consumer. For such expensive projects. schooling and health care. Families are often forced to make trade-offs between water. food.Arguments against water privatisation All the above projects can be criticized by presenting the following arguments. This is because there are considerable costs involved in upgrading water harnessing. which is subject to high interest rates from financiers and state taxation. the consumer is forced to bear the burden of higher payments on company loans. Thus. water companies borrow private money. The higher prices make water unaffordable to the poor which is very much against the fundamental right to water ensured to citizens. 1) Price hikes are unaffordable for the poor: Water privatization has invariably led to price hikes in almost all the regions in the world where water has been privatized. taxes and overheads on the capital. purification and distribution systems. tax-free public financing results in low costs for such projects where it is community-owned. 2) Unsustainable water mining: Page | 11 .

5) Potential Export of Bulk Water: Page | 12 . which are answerable only to their shareholders. Due to the indiscriminate mining. This is especially true in a country such as India. The fact that this is a real and tangible threat is apparent from the increasing number of community complaints against indiscriminate mining of groundwater by Coca-Cola in the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. 4) Water quality compromised: Corporations in search of profits can compromise on water quality in order to reduce costs. 3) Creation of water monopolies: Privatization by definition eliminates public control of the resource in question. Residents from villages in the Palghat district in Kerala surrounding Coke’s Greenfield soft-drink bottling factory in Plachimada say that Coke’s indiscriminate water mining has dried up many wells and contaminated the rest. where the water quality regulatory boards do not have much power to enforce standards. Nearly 100 people have reported recurring stomach aches. Public control of water is essential not only because water is necessary for survival and human fulfillment. Coke’s mining of more than 1 million liters of ground water per day has parched the lands of some 2000 people within 1. privatization of water services (and other essential services) often does not leave the consumers with a choice of provider. if the corporation mines an environmentally unsustainable amount of water and deplete the water body at a rate faster than it is replenished. then the government officials and the affected population can do very little to legally prevent the corporation from doing so. Once water becomes a marketable commodity and a corporation is given sole rights to a body of water. have a declared agenda to make profit. Coca Cola’s bottling plant was set up in 1999 in the middle of fertile agricultural land. the ground water has become contaminated with excessive calcium and magnesium from the dissolution of limestone that is associated with the groundwater deposit.2 miles of the factory. but also because of the severe and ever-worsening water crisis that the world is faced with. Athur village near Chennai and Plachimada in Kerala. Unlike privatization of other sectors such as airlines or telecommunications.One of the foremost reasons to oppose water privatization is the threat of unsustainable water mining by the water corporations in an effort to maximize profits. which they relate to the milky white water that they are being forced to drink. then it is within the corporation’s rights to mine as much water as it deems fit. Furthermore in an effort to maximize profits. These corporations. with proximity to a number of reservoirs and irrigation canals.

7) Worsening of the agricultural crisis : The agriculture sector. in absence of clean drinking water in nearby areas. and bathing for their cattle and irrigation for their fields. already in severe crisis. washing. Water privatization has cut off rural folk from community water sources and livelihoods. And the water flows would depend not on the natural cycles but on the business strategies of the power producing companies. A similar situation happened with the Borai industrial water supply project on the Shivnath river. women are forced to travel long distance to get water. The cultural impact of displacement on these communities is huge and they are not able to cope with the displacement related issues and problems. do not play the role of getting or Page | 13 . The residents of Mathur Village in North Chennai sued several bottled water companies in1995 for illegally extracting groundwater. It has been seen through experiences and evidences that the dam projects mostly displace people who belong to the tribal communities.India has a huge water market.drinking. it is the responsibility of women to securewater for domestic purposes. By the time the case was taken up in 1999. will be pushed even more into distress as water prices for irrigation increase. more than 60 private companies supplying water by tanker trucks had sunk additional illegal wells in Mathur. Bulk water exports will have disastrous ecological and environmental consequences. especially in rural areas. knowing this private companies are in a frenzy to access fresh water sources that they can sell at huge profits. Privatization opens the door to bulk water exports as control over this scarce resource is transferred from local communities to profit minded global corporations. For instance. So. 6) Deprivation of water access and livelihood of local rural communities: Water privatization has cut off rural folk from community water sources and livelihoods. the huge market for drinking water in the perpetually water starved city of Chennai has prompted several private companies to mine the surrounding villages for groundwater. Men. Violation of rights of women: In most of the developing countries like India. sacred rivers like the Ganga would be dried up for most of the months during the year. The water company prohibited the villagers from accessing and using water on the 23 kilometer stretch. 8) Cultural Impacts : With the dam building spree on the Himalayan rivers for hydropower by the private companies. depriving them water for their daily household needs . cooking. 9.

As the State quietly and deceitfully turns away from its obligations. This gender inequality has implications in women's daily life. there’s a need for implementing alternatives. Time invested on securing water excludes them from participating in decision-making processes. which puts them at risk of having serious illnesses they also spend long hours carrying water. Women often have the responsibility of using and managing water in the worst conditions. and with the storage of water. In such a situation.carrying water. Their relation with water has more to do with agricultural work. can be used to safeguard the right to water of people. since the carrying of water not only causes them physical disorders. holistic watershed management etc. advocating against poverty and improving their quality of life. the hold of these powerful groups on natural resources and the State machinery much stronger. health or education expenses. to step in to enforce the right to adequate clean water. politics. This is a complete violation of rights given under CEDAW. the 'right to water' is getting reduced to a mere slogan. Instead of privatization. from a rights based perspective. Page | 14 . sometimes having to choose between eating or being able to rely on having water for daily chores. Alternate models such as rain water harvesting. which give rulings in favour of the citizens on fundamental rights. income generation. are sadly not in a position. leisure and recreation. responsible water usage should be achieved by empowering local communities and creating local accountability. These companies have been using water to extract maximum profits out of their projects without any concern for the access to water for common people The Courts. but also makes it difficult for them to get involved in activities such as education. women start using contaminated water again. check dam and bund building. in addition to not being able to cover food. Better and socially responsible alternatives can be found by investing in community based participatory approaches to water management that ensures equitable and sustainable use of this precious natural resource. or rather reluctant at times. The experience have been in certain countries that when water service is suspended due to nonpayment. thus violating the fundamental right to water and life in the worst form. since they are using that money to pay for the water service. Conclusion and Recommendations The State has given much power to the rich and elites to have control over the natural resources including water. with the advent of the 1991 LPG.

unesco.evergreen.htm 4.org/2005/may/psa-waterwarmh.org/eng/Issues-and-Analysis/Library/Women-and-Water-Privatization 2. Volume 918: By Salman M. A. Ramachandraiah.com/ Book referred The human right to water: legal and policy dimensions. Hyderabad Page | 15 .edu/g/grossmaz/VANOVEDR/ 5.shtml 3.unhchr.org/news/EpZZZlkuAkDMZZOUuf.jubileesouth. http://www.awid.indiatogether. http://academic. http://www. www. Salman. Centre for Economic and Social Studies.BIBLIOGRAPHY Websites referred: 1. www. Siobhán Alice McInerney-Lankford Report: Report on Right to Drinking Water in India: By C.org 6. http://www.

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