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Human Development Report 2006
November 24, 2006 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Clean water is a right: "The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published its annual report on human development. It denounces the world's complacent disregard for such unglamorous subjects as standpipes, latrines and the 1.8m children who die each year from diarrhoea because the authorities cannot keep their drinking water separate from their faeces. The study is both coldly analytical and angry..."
posted by kliuless (18 comments total)

 
One of the greatest threats to development is from unmitigated global warming and water is one of the channels through which the damage would be done. Parts of southern and western Africa may receive 30 per cent less usable rainwater and produce less food as a result. India, meanwhile, will have more rain overall, but less in semi-arid central areas. All over the world, it is the poorest who will have less water as a result of climate change.

That puts academic debate about the costs and benefits of cutting carbon emissions into context. If nothing is done, then millions of already poor people, who did nothing to cause the climate to change, will have less water to drink and grow food. History will judge us poorly if we do not improve their water supply. But if, through inaction, we make it worse, we will be judged harshly indeed.
water for the world
posted by kliuless at 11:11 AM on November 24, 2006


Wonderful. All this so called "wealth", and we can't provide what people really need: clean air, clean water, clean food.

Well, even if we're raping the planet, at least we're exporting democracy around the world.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:55 AM on November 24, 2006


.
posted by chunking express at 12:04 PM on November 24, 2006


Wow, who knew that having someone else give you something is a right? I've just about given up on fighting for my right to party too.
posted by acetonic at 12:09 PM on November 24, 2006


Wow, who knew that having someone else give you something is a right?

Do you have a right to breathe?
posted by mek at 12:13 PM on November 24, 2006


Wow, who knew that having someone else give you something is a right?

Positive rights, dude.

Also:
Article 25, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
posted by The White Hat at 12:26 PM on November 24, 2006


I have always wondered this, but didn't have a good place to ask, so maybe someone can clear this up here. In places where water is contaminated with disease, etc . . . Why don't people boil the water? Is it just ineffective? Do they lack the means to do it? The education? I would think that is the easy answer, but frankly I have no idea if the poverty level in some places would be so low that a pot and firewood is out of the question.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:53 PM on November 24, 2006


Education. The first challenge is understanding that the water you're drinking is killing you; the second is understanding that boiling the same water will prevent it from killing you.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:02 PM on November 24, 2006


You just have to run for it with soldiers taunting you.
posted by mctsonic at 2:07 PM on November 24, 2006


also Fuel - boiling water is expensive.
posted by jb at 2:25 PM on November 24, 2006


remember that elsewhere in the world, charcoal, wood or coal may be the only heat, and all of those have to be bought. Electricity, gas or oil aren't that cheap either. If you have enough energy (in whatever form) just to cook your dinner, you aren't going to want to waste it all boiling your water.
posted by jb at 2:27 PM on November 24, 2006


Oh but the answer is TRADE not AID! If these people want clean water to drink, well they should get off their asses, be entrepreneurial, and start plumbing companies!

<bitter sarcasm/>
posted by Jimbob at 3:54 PM on November 24, 2006


I have always wondered this, but didn't have a good place to ask, so maybe someone can clear this up here. In places where water is contaminated with disease, etc . . . Why don't people boil the water? Is it just ineffective? Do they lack the means to do it? The education? I would think that is the easy answer, but frankly I have no idea if the poverty level in some places would be so low that a pot and firewood is out of the question.

Glad you asked. Nothing wrong with asking.

Frankly, though, a pot and firewood is not going to magically transform unclean water into clean except in a limited number of cases. This is more of a situation like leaded gasoline, which permeated the air of all urban areas with a toxic heavy metal until little more than a decade ago. Oddly, for decades really, people just accepted this as something to live with. Even in the richest country in the world.

Scarily, the same is even more true of people whose only source of "clean" water is contaminated with industrial runoff or raw human sewage. As long as most people who drink don't die immediately, most people shrug and accept what they cannot change. Dying slowly isn't noticeable. When you're thirsty it seems like a worthwhile tradeoff.

Here in the US, there's a great example of how things are handled -- the Chicago River. The city of Chicago gets its water from Lake Michigan. The Chicago River was full of contaminants from factories and toilets, flowing right into the water source for the city. So in the late 19th century they cleaned up the river reversed the flow of the river to send the sewage down to the Illinois River and subsequently the Mississippi River. This is considered one of the engineering achievements of the century, in fact. Not solving the pollution problem -- giving the pollution problem to someone else.

Actually cleaning up the river wouldn't happen for a century longer.

Again, in the richest country in the world.
posted by dhartung at 7:10 PM on November 24, 2006


Wow, who knew that having someone else give you something is a right?

You know, there is no such thing as the purity of the market.

Regulation is entirely necessary at certain levels and with respect to certain resources. Sure there is an inherent efficiency in how the market deals with supply and demand (and profit!) but there are so many other factors to consider including human and environmental well being.

This report is a great step forward. i think Vandana Shiva and other pioneers in promoting water as a fundamental human right deserve some credit.
posted by punkbitch at 8:58 PM on November 24, 2006


Fences.

Seriously. The quality of much drinking water could be improved immediately by fencing it off such that large animals cannot contaminate it with their shit.

But this isn't a simple solution. What do you build a fence with when every stick is used for cooking? How do you provide grazing animals with the water that they need, whilst keeping them away from the source?

And certain water sources can't be fenced off. You can easily fence a drylands lake, even a large one. But you can't fence the Ganges.

Bores and pumps are better, of course, but they're also more expensive. Bores require special machinery to be brought in. Pumps have moving parts which wear out and need to be replaced, which means spare parts have to be stockpiled and distributed, which means bureaucracy, red tape, delay, and the centralization of power.

If I have to watch another World Vision appeal in which some five-year-old dips a plastic bucket in a pond while on the far side a cow releases a torrent of semi-liquid shit into the water, I think I'm going to scream.
posted by Ritchie at 2:30 AM on November 25, 2006


Do you have a right to breathe?

Do I have the responsibilty to make sure you are breathing? If you stop breathing, am I violating your rights?

There is a difference between what society has a responsibility to provide and what humans have a right to expect.

As a good neighbor, I should take care of the less fortunate around me. I don't think I have a right to be taken care of by my neighbors. Oh well, the whole expectation of entitlements is what has led Western Civ. to hell in a handbasket, I don't expect any common sense at this point.
posted by acetonic at 6:19 AM on November 25, 2006


What, we're not supposed to expect society to satisfy its responsibilities? That's what it's there for! Society exists to do stuff for people.


Incidentally, I don't have society-provided water at my house, I have a private well. No sewer or curbside trash pickup either. Fortunately, I do have electrical service, which makes everything else so much easier. Our little neighborhood also paves its own roads. But to be honest, this rugged self-sufficiency is overrated. For the most part it means I do plenty of plumbing and pay a lot of money for a shitty road. These types of problems are best solved on a larger scale. It's not that society "owes" you clean drinking water, it just happens to be the most efficient means of providing it. Call it a service instead of a right, if you prefer.
posted by ryanrs at 4:34 PM on November 26, 2006


truth does not spring whole from the minds of communist bureaucrats
posted by FreedomTickler at 11:26 PM on November 27, 2006


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