Benson at a participatory workshop yesterday helping to design a water justice campaign.
Benson at a participatory workshop yesterday helping to design a water justice campaign.

The Blue Planet Project sees prepaid water meters as a violation to the right to water and sanitation and is organizing against them in the townships around Cape Town, South Africa.

Water Management Devices in townships dispense a daily amount of water. These water meters allow households a free basic monthly allowance of 6,000 litres of water before shutting off automatically. Beyond that, residents have to pay for more water. Those who live in the townships assert that water meters lead to higher water bills. Those who earn less than $100 a month can be charged more than $25 a month for water. The City of Cape Town routinely installs water meters without community consultation and has made them mandatory in low-cost housing.

The South African constitution adopted in 1996 states that, "Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water." The South African Water Act says that no person should be without water for more than seven days. In April 2008, a Johannesburg court found that prepaid water meters violate the right to water, highlighting that 25 litres of water per day is well below the basic amount of water needed for drinking, cooking and bathing in order to fulfill that right.

The Blue Planet Project sees prepaid water meters as both illegal and unconstitutional. We call for a stop to the discriminatory practice of prepaid water meters and for the right to water and sanitation to be respected and implemented in South Africa.

Toward that end, Cape Town-based Blue Planet Project organizer Koni Benson is working with the Housing Assembly to support the ability of social movements to launch sustained campaigns and respond to police brutality and criminalization. Specifically, she is working with them to design a water justice campaign aimed at access to water. The strategies will be developed through a series of workshops that create the space for people to meet and plan rooted in their communities.

The Blue Planet Project has also supported the Coalition Against Water Privatisation in the fight against prepaid water meters.

Further reading
R100 a week for water - prepaid water meters forced on Parow residents (May 2014 GroundUp article)
Water Meters for the Poor: New Name, Old Problems (April 2009 IPS article)

Photo: Benson at a participatory workshop yesterday helping to design a water justice campaign.

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