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MRG Urges Action to Protect Aquatic Ecosystems and Ensure Safe Drinking Water for All

15 September 2023

This message was delivered on 14 September 2023 by Carl Söderbergh during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation at the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Special Rapporteur,

Minority Rights Group warmly welcomes your report focusing on the need for states to protect aquatic ecosystems from pollution and overexploitation in order to fulfil the right to safe drinking water for all, including for marginalized and impoverished people.

In our recent Trends report, this year focusing on water, we identify many examples of minorities and indigenous peoples who depend on aquatic ecosystems that are badly affected by pollution, privatization and extraction for agro-industry. Underpinning these harms are often issues of racism and exclusion, multiplied through intersectionalities affecting especially minority and indigenous women and girls and persons with disabilities.

Black urban communities in the United States must buy bottled water at great expense as authorities have not invested in the infrastructure needed to keeping local water sources free of contaminants. The Ogoni people of the Niger delta face the harmful impacts of the oil industry on their ecosystem which they depend on for their water and livelihoods. The Uyghur people of Xinjiang province in China are witnessing the degradation of their centuries-old karez system of underground water channels – a unique stewardship model – because of development projects initiated by the authorities and official neglect, resulting in water scarcity in the region.

What then is needed? We must stop viewing water as a for-profit commodity and learn from the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and minorities, who value aquatic ecosystems as an intrinsic part of themselves and their cultures.

I thank you.

Watch the recording