Peace Brigades International accompanies the struggle for the human right to water

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly, through Resolution 64/292, recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that these rights are essential to the realization of all human rights.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation Léo Heller has noted the impact of mega-projects on these fundamental rights.

Heller highlights, “The impacts arising from the human rights gaps in the existing regulatory framework, as well as the power imbalance between the proponents of and those impacted by projects, have spurred the emergence of social conflicts, in particular in the field of the human rights to water and sanitation.”

“Human rights defenders advocating the rights of those affected by megaprojects have faced harassment, physical assault, bodily injuries and even death.”

Heller adds, “The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has highlighted that individuals and groups facing threats are those who oppose land grabbing, extractive industries, the industrial timber trade and large-scale development projects and that, in this regard, Latin American and Asia have been the most hostile regions for environmental human rights defenders.”

Some examples of Peace Brigades International accompanying this critical human rights struggle include:

Water shutoffs – In December 2019, PBI-Mexico stated that the water company Aguas de Saltillo suspending water services to the Saltillo Migrant Shelter was a violation of the rights to water and sanitation.

Mining – PBI-Honduras accompanies C-Libre and CEHPRODEC which support communities opposed to the Inversiones Los Pinares mine because it is causing damage to the Guapinol River, the source of drinking water for 14 nearby communities and about 42,000 people.

Fracking – PBI-Colombia accompanies CCALCP and CREDHOS, two organizations that have highlighted that fracking violates the human right to water.

Dams – PBI-Honduras accompanies ASODEBICOQ which is opposed to the construction of the Santa Lucia hydroelectric dam which has polluted the Cuyagual River.

Luxury housing – In January, PBI-Honduras observed a protest in Tegucigalpa by people opposed to the building of the Santa Maria luxury housing project that would affect 20 per cent of the water being supplied to the city and the surrounding areas.

Garbage pollution – PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Chinautla Multisector Urban Platform that advocates for the right to water and raises concerns about a major sand extraction project and a massive garbage dump that leaches into the water supply.

Land grabs – PBI-Mexico accompanies Educa Oaxaca which has highlighted that the Indigenous Mixe community of Ayutla has suffered without water, due to land grabs by an armed group from neighboring Tamazulápam.

Hydro projects – PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Peaceful Resistance of La Laguna which is opposed to the construction of a TRECSA electrical substation because of possible environmental and health consequences, such as deforestation, the reduction of the amount of water available and the contamination of the water supply with harmful chemicals.

Palm oil plantations – PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the case of criminalized Indigenous land defender Samuel Choc Ac who says, “The Chiribiscal, Quimala, San Román and Negro rivers, which are being contaminated by palm planting waste these days.”

For more on the struggle for the human right to water, please see Heller’s report The Impact of Mega-Projects on The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation.

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