Access To Safe Drinking Water

A.Z.M. Arman Habib

Clean water is essential to human growth, economic growth for a country and sustainability of that country. Without water, life could not exist; it is one of life’s most fundamental basic needs. About 1.1 billion people half the developing world has no access to any type of improved drinking source of water. The consequences of not having safe drinking water are stark, 1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases attributable to lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. The World Health Organization states that “access to improved water supply is not only a fundamental need and human right it also has considerable health and economic benefits to households and individuals.” The current situation regarding safe drinking water is potentially fatal globally. Almost half of the world’s population faces a scarcity of water, and currently one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.

The concept of basic water requirements to meet fundamental human needs was first established at the 1977 United Nations Water Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Its Action Plan asserted that all peoples, whatever their stage of development and their social and economic conditions, had the right to have access to drinking water in quantities and of a quality equal to their basic needs.

Around 26 million people of Bangladesh do not have access to safe drinking water sources, according to an estimate of UNICEF and WHO.  The UN Legal framework towards the right to water is globally acknowledged and calls upon the member states that have ratified the specific conventions that declare the right to water and sanitation. Bangladesh has ratified and agreed with several international treaties, under which the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is guaranteed. Although the fundamental responsibility of the state, under article 15(a) of the Constitution of Bangladesh ensures securing food, cloth, shelter, education and medical care, it incidentally misses safe drinking water from the provision of basic necessities. This safe drinking water will ensure the raising level of nutrition and the improvement of public health, which per se is a primary duty vis a vis paramount principle for the governance of our state under the constitution.

Moreover, the Bangladesh Water Act, 2013 is not in consonance with the International law, as access to safe potable water has not been declared as human rights.  Even the penultimate version of the Act had considered access to safe water as human right. However, the government certainly deserves pat on its back for recognising this third generational right of safe potable drinking water for all its citizens.

Eibe Riedel, Member of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, says that- “People all over the world have a human right to water as the most fundamental prerequisite for living a life in dignity. Without it, the realisation of other human rights is impossible. Since water resources are limited and unevenly distributed, a clear responsibility rests on all States and other public or private non-state actors to secure access to safe, secure, affordable and acceptable, drinking and freshwater resources for all.” Access to safe drinking water is a fundamental precondition for the enjoyment of several human rights, including the rights to education, housing, health, life, work and protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In Bangladesh Constitution has no such kind of provision but the Water Act will turn a new leaf in giving statutory recognition to third generational right but still we have many more miles to go in order to secure the socialist goals of our Constitution. The right to water has to be implemented in a sustainable way to secure the right for further generations.

This article written by A.Z.M. Arman Habib, a student of South Asian University appeared on The Daily Star (Bangladesh). Here is the link to the original story.