More rights & clean water please, sir?

28 04 2008

Humans have available less than 0.08% of all the Earth’s water and yet over the next two decades our use is estimated to increase by about 40% reports the BBC . The irony is that we are using more than 70% percent of the world’s water on agriculture and given the exponential growth of the global population, we need even more water for the agricultural sector if we are to feed everyone (which, by the way, we are not doing and we could be if we really wanted to but that’s a another blog post entirely) . To give you something to really drink about: today, scientists say that one person in five across the world has no access to safe drinking water, and one in two lacks safe sanitation. Nowhere has this become more real than in the poorest province of South Africa-the Eastern Cape- where 80 babies have been reported to have died following drinking contaminated water. More annoying than the fact that we are living in times where we are expecting people to die because we can’t do enough to provide them with the basic necessities, is the fact it is reported that the Ukhahlamba Municiplaity waited for more deaths before any action is taken. One municipal official has said ‘we are going to start warning the public’ and I am this point hyperventilating and shouting ‘why the !@#$ didn’t we warn them before 80 children lost their lives?!’. And if there is ‘no proof’ of any negligence, what exactly are we warning the public about because I am hearing rhetoric here. Its as if we are playing a waiting game with a serial killer where we wait for a pattern and instead of acting on the first few casualities. Would we rather not be wrong and discover that the first 15 children were separate unrelated cases, rather than

Even more scary is that fact we are in fact waiting for a lot of things: 80 babies dying before looking into the quality of water that millions are drinking daily, rolling blackouts before realising we are in fact an energy wasteful bunch and that if you are in power proper planning is non-negotiable, messed up global weather systems to see that we are doing irreparable damage to our planet. But my focus here is the fact we have only now undertaken education of the public following a crisis (because when children cannot see their 5th birthdays, we are living in times of crisis) and I say ‘we’ because I and everyone else has placed the municipalities in power and then failed to follow up the decisions we have made. Instead we leave it to the journalists (who pursue stories with their own agendas anyway) to the legwork of being a democratic citizen. Along with the municipality I too am guilty of gross negligence because as long as I am getting drinkable water I am asking any questions about everybody else getting clean water, and how many of us are? The Human Rights of South Africa has undertaken to investigate the deaths of the children and that is apt because the availability of clean water (no matter how limited the global resources) is a human rights issue and again begs the question: As democratic citizens are we doing enough to secure each others socio-economic rights such as the provision of basic services and the right to life. Each one teach one.