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

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

11. The right to water clearly falls within the category of guarantees essential for securing an adequate standard of living. the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living “including adequate food. inter alia. 15). affordable and accessible drinking water that is adequate for individual requirements (drinking. 12. affordability.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. 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. para. household sanitation.unhchr. sufficiency.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'. and hygiene'. third parties from denying equal access to adequate drinking water. The obligation to respect requires that States parties refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right to drinking water. protect and fulfill on States parties. Social and Cultural Rights in its Twenty-ninth session at Geneva ( General Comment No. • International Covenant on Economic. 15) (http://www. 1) and the rights to adequate housing and adequate food Article. The General Comment has further elaborated the important provisions of the right with respect to safety. 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. Social and Cultural Rights: The Committee on Economic. adopting the necessary and effective legislative and other measures to restrain. 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. The right to water imposes obligations to respect. paragraph 1. 3 Committee on Economic.nsf/0/a5458d1d1bbd713fc1256cc400389e94/$FILE/G0340229. Every citizen is entitled 'to safe. “Article 11. refraining from engaging in any practice or activity that denies or limits equal access to adequate drinking water. and polluting and inequitably extracting water resources. food preparation. This obligation includes. for example. of the Covenant specifies a number of rights emanating from. in its twenty-ninth session (General Comment inter alia. clothing and housing”. Social and Cultural Rights. and indispensable for. sufficient. accessibility etc.p df) Page | 4 . This obligation includes.

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

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

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

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

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

As part of the project. 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. The experiences of privatisation in other countries of the world haven’t been appraised. 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. commissioned the project to meet the demand on water in the Borai Industrial area situated on the banks of the Shivnath . For the majority with earnings of less than $65 per month. 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 company promptly prohibited fishing in the stretch of the river and also charged local farmers for access to water from tubewells. The experience of Bolivia is known to the world: Bolivia: Responding to the World Bank structural adjustment policies. the increased tariff meant less water access. Degremont. Mass local protests organized into a coalition in defense of water and life. The Delhi Jal Board. Soon after bagging the contract the companies raised the water tariff to $20 per month and imposed permits for collecting rain water on roofs. which does not rule out an increase in water price for the residents of New Delhi. The DJB is also providing Degremont with land.The Chhattisgarh State Industries Development Corporation (CSIDC). Bechtel is now suing the nation of Bolivia for $25 million dollars for canceling the contract. 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. Furthermore. After weeks of intense protests. 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 government cancelled the contract with private companies. 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. a 23.6 km stretch of the river was ceded to Radius Water through a 22-year renewable contract. 3. under which the company had absolute monopoly over the stretch of river water.a non-perennial river. While Degremont is getting the raw water for free through pipelines from the Upper Ganga canal of the Tehri Dam project. electricity and treatment cost. Page | 10 .

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

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

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

Page | 14 . responsible water usage should be achieved by empowering local communities and creating local accountability. advocating against poverty and improving their quality of life. the hold of these powerful groups on natural resources and the State machinery much stronger. holistic watershed management etc. health or education expenses. but also makes it difficult for them to get involved in activities such as education. In such a situation. The experience have been in certain countries that when water service is suspended due to nonpayment.carrying water. there’s a need for implementing alternatives. check dam and bund building. 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. sometimes having to choose between eating or being able to rely on having water for daily chores. thus violating the fundamental right to water and life in the worst form. politics. from a rights based perspective. As the State quietly and deceitfully turns away from its obligations. and with the storage of water. Alternate models such as rain water harvesting. are sadly not in a position. which puts them at risk of having serious illnesses they also spend long hours carrying water. or rather reluctant at times. can be used to safeguard the right to water of people. which give rulings in favour of the citizens on fundamental rights. in addition to not being able to cover food. the 'right to water' is getting reduced to a mere slogan. to step in to enforce the right to adequate clean water. 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. Their relation with water has more to do with agricultural work. with the advent of the 1991 LPG. since the carrying of water not only causes them physical disorders. Women often have the responsibility of using and managing water in the worst conditions. This is a complete violation of rights given under CEDAW. This gender inequality has implications in women's daily life. Time invested on securing water excludes them from participating in decision-making processes. leisure and recreation. income generation. Instead of privatization. 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. women start using contaminated water again.

http://academic.unhchr.shtml 2.evergreen.indiatogether.awid. www.jubileesouth.BIBLIOGRAPHY Websites referred: 5. Siobhán Alice McInerney-Lankford Report: Report on Right to Drinking Water in India: By C. http://www. http://www.unesco.htm 4. Ramachandraiah. Salman. 6. Centre for Economic and Social Book referred The human right to water: legal and policy dimensions. A. Volume 918: By Salman http://www. Hyderabad Page | 15 .