March 22nd is International World Water Day and it serves as a reminder that water has not yet become a human right, and that millions continue to be denied access to water or have difficulty obtaining a fresh supply on a daily basis. This is why at Grassroots International we believe that water is a human right and support communities struggling to secure, protect and preserve this vital resource.
In a world that is increasingly driven by multinational corporations trying to privatize and take control of natural resources, Grassroots International and our partners work to protect the water commons and ensure communities’ rights to this precious, life-giving resource.
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in Palestine is a great example of how our partners’ projects get water to the communities that need it most. Water is an extremely valuable resource in the occupied Palestinian territories. In a region where water is scarce, Israel has created monopoly on the water supply and has strategically built the Separation Wall to access and siphon aquafers in the West Bank – sometimes even drilling horizontally below Palestinian land to reach water pockets on the other sideof the Green Line.
As a result of water theft and lack of investment in infrastructure, Palestinians have access to only 70 liters of water per day per person, well below the 100 liters recommended by the World Health Organization. By comparison, their neighbors in Israel consume roughly 300 liters per day.
So you can imagine the difficulty of finding enough water for agriculture. In response, the UAWC has drilled over 357 agricultural wells, established four concrete earthen ponds for harvesting water, built four new water tanks to irrigate crops, and linked communities and farmland with over 38 miles of pipes. These achievements are strengthening Palestinian farmers, their communities and their agricultural output and earned UAWC international acclaim, including the 2015 US Food Sovereignty Prize, the Arab Creativity Award and the United Nation’s Equator Prize in recognition of their impactful work for land reclamation, water management and agricultural development.
Haiti’s Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) is another one of Grassroots International’s partners working to promote water rights. Climate change is affecting all aspects of life in Haiti and the MPP’s work, and water is more valuable than ever. Haiti is currently experiencing less and less rainfall, and record-hot temperatures, which leads to more water evaporation. Water levels are low so there’s not enough water for livestock or food production.
Since 80 percent of Haiti’s agriculture is dependent on rainfall, the country will have to import even more food than ever before. Furthermore, since the earthquake in 2010 mining companies have been given the green light to exploit the land as they see fit for “development’s” sake. This has led to multi-national companies extracting and polluting copious amounts of water that could have otherwise been used by the Haitian people and farmers. This is one reason why the work of the MPP is so critical. Through their water infrastructure projects, the MPP has built hundreds of cisterns, dug dozens of wells and created various water capture projects like man-made ponds to use to sustain local agriculture.
Brazil also has major issues surrounding water. According to our partner the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), approximately 10,000 families in the city of Altamira in Brazil will be directly affected by the flooding and subsequent lake created from the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam. Meanwhile Norte Energia, the company responsible for this mega-project, has only built 4,100 poorly-constructed houses for the displaced without any other infrastructure like schools, medical facilities, and public transportation for the displaced communities.
Meanwhile the electricity generate by Belo Monte and other mega-dam projects aren’t even going to the communities they have displaced. Instead the majority of the electricity generated will go to support extractive industries that continue to devastate communities and the environment. Money is once again being given priority over people’s lives. It is clear that occurrences such as these take place regularly across the globe, and it is most certainly not any single region’s burden to bear.
And the water crisis is not limited to only the Global South, whether it’s the Flint Michigan water crisis, or rivers and water systems tainted from fracking, or widespread water shutoffs, people are also seeing the struggle for water here in the US. This is why we also work diligently with groups like the Climate Justice Alliance to affect change here at home.
On World Water Day, we join movements globally and here in the US to demand that access to clean, drinkable water and control over water resources are inherent human rights that should be afforded to everyone, not just the wealthy.
Robert A. Vigna is currently a Graduate student at Suffolk University getting his Masters degree in Political Science and International Relations. He also has a Bachelors degree in Political Science from Suffolk U. Robert is currently volunteering with Grassroots International.