Water Justice News

Updates from around the world about the global water crisis, and the struggle for water justice.

 

October 13, 2016 – 12:49pm

From left: Peter Jans, city councillor, representative of the City of St.Gallen; Sybille Minder Hochreutener, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Applied Sciences; Prof. Dr. Thomas Dyllick, Professor of Management with special focus on Sustainability Management; and Stefanie Graf, Leader of the Rectorate Staff Unit of the University of Teacher Education
From left: Peter Jans, city councillor, representative of the City of St.Gallen; Sybille Minder Hochreutener, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Applied Sciences; Prof. Dr. Thomas Dyllick, Professor of Management with special focus on Sustainability Management; and Stefanie Graf, Leader of the Rectorate Staff Unit of the University of Teacher Education

The Blue Planet Project congratulates the City of St.Gallen in Switzerland for becoming the latest community to join the Blue Communities Project. More than 300 people were present at the ceremony in St. Gallen on September 24 where city councillor Peter Jans unveiled the certificate announcing that St.Gallen had achieved the designation of Blue Community by:

  1. Recognising the right to water as a human right;
  2. Promoting the use of tap water from public infrastructure by ensuring that municipal facilities and services offer water from public taps wherever possible;
  3. Managing water responsibly;
  4. Promoting publicly financed, owned, and operated water and wastewater services;
  5. Cultivating public–public partnerships with international partners and advocating the right to water at the international level.

The Blue Planet also applauds the University of St.Gallen for becoming the third Blue University after the University of Bern, Switzerland and the University of Lavras in Brazil. Blue Universities are committed to promoting research on water issues from a public interest perspective to counter the growing trend of corporate sponsorships promoting private interests in academia.

 

Our human Right2Water is of such fundamental importance that it should not be used as a political football by political parties, none of whom can claim the support of a majority of Irish citizens. Since 2014 Irish Citizens have led the way in defending our human Right2Water against commodification and privatisation. In doing so Right2Water, […]

 

On Monday, 11 July, Sisters of Mercy joined the Republic of Palau, the NGO Mining Working Group, Salesian Missions, and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in hosting an insightful side event discussing the ways in which the human right to water and sanitation is central to Sustainable Development Goal 6.

 

June 9, 2016 – 5:55pm

Activists gathered outside of OceanaGold’s shareholder meeting in downtown Toronto today at a rally organized by the Council of Canadians, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, MiningWatch Canada, and the United Church of  Canada. The Canadian mining company has faced controversy for its decision to sue El Salvador for US$250 million at a World Bank tribunal when the company failed to obtain a mining permit for which it never met regulatory requirements. As a result, over the past seven years, the tiny financially-strapped nation has been forced to divert over $12 million dollars from economic development, job creation and violence prevention, merely to pay to defend itself.

Failing to respect the clear ‘no’ to metal mining, OceanaGold is bullying El Salvador with its suit while trying to get its foot in the door through the El Dorado Foundation. OceanaGold created this company-sponsored foundation at the local level in an attempt to rebrand the proposed mine. This is deceitful, disrespectful and dangerous.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, OceanaGold’s large-scale gold mining operations in the village of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya province have also been the source of years of protest. Filipino organizations have been denouncing the illegal demolition of homes in 2008 to make way for the company’s tailings pond and contamination of the Didipio River and adjacent water bodies. Loss of water supplies, displacement and respiratory illness are among further complaints.

Council of Canadians organizer Rachel Small went inside the shareholder meeting and made the following statement to the shareholders, management, and executive team present.

“My name is Rachel Small and I work with the Council of Canadians.  

In 2013 Oceana took on an expensive drawn-out legal battle suing El Salvador for $250 million USD over a mine permit that it has never met the regulatory requirements to obtain.

El Salvadorans meanwhile have been very clear that they do not want mining to proceed in their densely populated and already water-stressed country. 98% of the country’s freshwater supplies are heavily polluted. The proposed Oceana Gold mine would threaten the watershed that provides drinking water for two thirds of the population. An overwhelming majority of Salvadorans want to see a permanent ban on metal mining – over 80% of the population as confirmed by a 2015 national poll.

Oceana Gold’s lawsuit is an effort to bully the Salvadoran people who are setting their own economic and environmental agenda free from destructive metal mining projects. Many are also looking to the company’s take on corporate philanthropy through its El Dorado Foundation in El Salvador as a further attempt to increase social divisions and contribute to further violence against local community activists. Between 2009 and 2011, four environmental activists were murdered in Cabañas, El Salvador. More recently, several local organizations have received threats. These crimes have never been fully investigated.

A decision in this case will be announced shortly. El Salvador, a small impoverished Central American country of 6 million inhabitants, has already spent over 12 million USD in legal fees– an amount that could go a long way towards providing basic services to reduce poverty. For example, that amount could provide two years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people. 250 million would have devastating effects on the economy.

Many in El Salvador are looking at the Philippines for further evidence of why the proposed mine will not benefit their country. Local organizations in Nueva Vizcaya, where OceanaGold’s Didipio mine is located, are calling for OceanaGold’s operations to stop and for their lands to be rehabilitated, given impacts on water supplies and farmlands. The Incoming Governor of Nueva Vizcaya, Carlos M. Padilla, also issued an open letter reiterating the call for OceanaGold to pull out, emphasizing how the costs of the company’s open-pit mine far outweigh scarce benefits. In 2012 two environmental activists who opposed the mining project, Cheryl Ananayo and Randy Nabayay, were assassinated.

Salvadorans are preventing their communities from experiencing the kind of environmental devastation and displacement faced by communities impacted by the Didipio mine in the Philippines.

OceanaGold has repeatedly claimed that its mining project will be good for El Salvador and for communities near the mine. Given the terrible precedent of violence, displacement and contamination in the Philippines, the lack of consent from people of El Salvador, and the negative impacts Oceana Gold’s  lawsuit has already had in El Salvador, I would like to know how you back up this claim.” 

The CEO responded by saying all of the claims made in the statement were “spurious”, even as the protestors outside the building could be heard yelling “OceanaGold lies!”.

Media statement here

All photos by Allan Lissner.

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May 012016
 

May 1, 2016 – 8:58am

Water disconnections in Detroit are set to resume today.

The Detroit News reports, “Hundreds lined up outside the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s East Side Customer Service Center Saturday in a last-minute effort to avoid having their water service shut off. The water department is scheduled to start shutting off service Sunday to customers who owe money, and Saturday’s ‘Stay Connected to DWSD Water Fair’ offered an opportunity to avoid disconnections by entering into a payment plan with the utility, spokeswoman Linda Clark said. …Clark said about 23,000 people owe money to the department. The average amount owed: $663.”

The Associated Press adds, “The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has said it will start shutting off service Sunday on delinquent residential accounts not on plans.” Last month, the Detroit News reported, “The program of residential shut-offs was suspended in the winter and will continue when weather warms. Since the campaign began in 2014, the city has conducted about 50,000 shut-offs.”

That article also notes, “Detroit last year shut water service to 23,300 homes … but left the taps running at thousands of businesses that owe millions of dollars, city documents show. Businesses and government-owned properties owe nearly twice as much as residences, $41 million compared with $26 million for homes, but only 680 were shut off in 2015, according to records obtained by The Detroit News through the Freedom of Information Act.” Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization says, “[Businesses] don’t get threats. They don’t get shut-off notices. They get to dispute their bills. When we try to dispute a bill, we still get shut off.”

On June 18, 2014, the Blue Planet Project, the Detroit People’s Water Board, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Food & Water Watch submitted a report to Catarina de Albuquerque, who at that time was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, urging her to take immediate action to help restore water services and stop further cut-offs in Detroit. She responded, “Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has commented, “Detroit is a victim of decades of market driven neo-liberal policy that put business and profit ahead of public good. With globalization and the hollowing out of the once mighty auto industry, wealth and businesses fled to the suburbs, draining ‎the city of its tax base and the water department of its revenues. The burden of paying for the water and sewer services landed squarely on those who stayed, mostly poor African Americans. Rates rose 119 per cent in a decade in a city with record high unemployment and a 40 per cent poverty rate.”

In addition to the Blue Planet Project report to the UN, the Council of Canadians also organized a solidarity convoy and delivered water to Detroit residents in July 2014. In September 2014, we asked Judge Steven Rhodes to issue a restraining order against the water shutoffs. In June 2015, we attended the International Social Movements Gathering on Water Rights and Housing Rights in Detroit organized by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition. And in October 2015, Council of Canadians activists from across the country, along with Vanessa Gray from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation and independent media, met with American allies in Detroit for a tour and strategy discussion.

We continue to urge the City of Detroit to implement the water affordability program proposed by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. That program calls for the adoption of 1) a rate affordability program, consisting of a rate discount component, an [arrears] management component and a water conservation component; 2) designated fundamental consumer protections involving late fees, service disconnections, and payment plans; and 3) designated collection initiatives directed toward customers having an ability-to-pay.

For numerous blogs on this situation, and more about our interventions in support of the right to water and sanitation in Detroit, please click here.
 

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