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International Water Day – Clean Water is a Basic Human Right

international water day


Happy World Water Day!!

2013 was chosen to be the International Water Cooperation year and today, March 22, as International Water Day (or World Water Day).

Why do we celebrate World Water Day?  Because water is the most important resource on the planet.

Water is not just an environmental issue.  Access to clean water is a social justice issue where problems of race, class and gender swirl in the mix.

To me, water is the biggest issue, because it links all other issues in some way or another,” says Assistant Professor of Geography Farhana Sultana. “It’s an environmental issue, but it is also connected to social, political, and economic issues. It’s about gender, class, and race.”

When we talk about water, we have to talk about fair and equitable access to resources.

Throughout the developing world, access to clean water is secure if you own something. Families that own their own land can purchase a pump and guarantee access to fresh water, albeit with more difficulties than most people living in London or New York. Families without land, however, must find other ways of accessing clean water, including purchasing water or collecting it from public land. This creates a situation in which low-income people without the means for ownership must spend disproportionate amounts of time and energy in the pursuit of water. Laws that favor equality or inequality, such as those surrounding access to social property, state provision, and property relations, determine who has access to clean water and when. The most visible example of the way legislation can affect access to water is that of Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2000. Structural reforms imposed by the International Monetary Fund led to the privatization of the local water system, making water unaffordable for the majority of residents. In this case, protests succeeded in shutting down the city and eventually regaining access to water resources. Despite this victory, restricted access to water is still a reality for many in countries across the world, despite the importance of this resource for both health and survival.


By promoting the privatization of water systems in the developing world, we are creating an unsustainable situation in which economic and other inequalities dictate who is to live and who is to die.

Access to clean water should be a basic human right. If International Water Day is to achieve anything is it should be a recognition of that fact and a push to make it so.


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