Water: A Human Right Or A Luxury?

Overpriced water supplies in Sayane district restrict access for underprivileged. About the video: In Sayane district 25 villages suffer from restricted access to clean water due to an inadequate state distribution system. Prior to the new Water Supply and Sanitation Scheme water was supplied through a water tank for 70 Rupees throughout the year. The community, even the poorest, had access to an unlimited amount of water. Once the system changed and the Government started to distribute the water through contractors there has been a rise in prices that has made water a luxury good for the underprivileged. Installing one tap costs 4600 Rupees. A fortune for families, who have an irregular income and often live on a day to day basis. Some families in the villages still invest in the water tap, but they are disappointed. Water is only supplied once every four to five days and the tap empties after only two days even if they use it solely to quench their thirst. Taking a bath with this water is out of the question. The communities lament that the scheme has worsened their access to water. Our Community Correspondent says: Anand Pagare, our Community Correspondent from Sayane district questions the actions from the government: "Why did the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation change to this system? They claim that they are concentrating on the poor and helping them access their basic needs. But the people continue to suffer. This is unacceptable. Access to clean water for all people of India should be guaranteed." The Issue: The Ministry of Water Resources has published a Draft National Water Policy (NWP) for 2012. On paper, access to water is defined as a right to life, but at the same time, water resources are treated as an economic resource. Furthermore, the officials finalised that economic principles need to guide the prices of water, which will be fixed in each state independently. Their intention is to avoid wastage of valuable water resources. The Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy criticises India's Draft on Water Resources. Even if the paper acknowledges that there is a need to improve the water supplies throughout the country and recognizes that equity, social justice and sustainability should guide governments actions, they lag behind in defining access to water as a human right. The policy does not give any clear guidelines stipulating either quantity and quality of water or other parameters that mandate specific service standards. The lack of legally binding guidelines for distribution companies and the overpowering idea of economical principals give little right to underprivileged citizens to have access to the most basic need in human life: drinking water. All those noble thoughts on good governance, informed decision making and access water for all put forward in the document and implemented by the Maharashtra Water Supply and Sanitation Ministry are in vain. The government department emphasizes that they want to give access to water in particular to the underprivileged. But the people of Sayane district continue to suffer from pressing water scarcity. Call for Action: The communities from the 25 villages demand from the Ministry of Water Resources to live up to the standards of good governance. They need to draft a community participatory policy for water resources, which is actually demand-driven and offers deprived people access to water. Above all, in a new policy access to water has to be defined as a basic human right, which cannot be overridden by economic principals, defining it as an economic good. The government has to start understanding access to water as a right of all citizens and take up its duty to guarantee water to all. The distribution system has to be reworked and the infrastructure improved. Related links: Water Supply and Sanitation Department - Government of Maharashtra (official website) http://www.mahawssd.gov.in/scripts/introduction.htm India Water Portal http://www.indiawaterportal.org/ Draft of India's National Water Policy (2012) http://mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/DraftNWP2012_English9353289094.pdf -- Julia Lechner Social Media Intern As seen on Tehelka
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