State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Water Human Rights: Pollution

water-pollutionIn my previous blogs, I have been discussing different ways in which the human right to clean water is violated. I have already discussed how economic scarcity occurs, and this week I will be discussing pollution of water.

Pollution issues are largely leading to contamination of the water supplies around the world.  There are countless types of pollution that can affect the water supplies.  I will focus on a few major types of pollution, but it is important to realize that this issue is so much larger than I can discuss in a single blog.

One line of pollution that is gaining more awareness is through coal mining.  When coal is mined, it must be “washed” to get to a condition that is usable in power plants.  The waste is pumped back into mines that are supposed to be altered to prevent any leakage, but leakage is occurring in many places.  One example of this is seen in a recent New York Times article about water pollution due to coal mines. In parts of West Virginia, where the drinking water supply has been extremely contaminated.  The water in their homes has caused severe dry skin, rashes on the skin, and tooth decay.  It has reached a point where people can no longer drink the water and have to bring in water tanks to use clean water to enable showering.  As this polluted water is causing extreme issues for the citizens it is clearly a human rights violation. 

Another source of contamination is through human waste.  In many African countries, people defecate in the same areas as they get their drinking water.  Water contaminated with human waste is a huge contributor to diseases.  Most of these people simply do not know better.  Human waste can also enter the water supply through leaking tanks of waste into the groundwater supply or river water. 

All throughout the developed world chemicals and medications are making their way into our water supply, something that is potentially harmful and may have to be removed at some point in the future.  Other issues that harm our water supply include fertilizer runoff, oil spills, and saltwater infiltration into groundwater.  These issues of pollution are usually human caused; we simply need acceptable policies put in to minimize their occurrences.

So the question now that we have seen several ways that this “right to water” has been violated is what do we do about it?  In many of these cases, it is not clear who is responsible for the right violation .  It is also not reasonable to think that countries that live far below the poverty line have the resources to build elaborate desalination plants or wastewater treatment facilities toprovide water for their citizens.  For polluted water bodies, who needs to clean up the mess? Is it the people who want to use the water, or those who polluted it? Can we even trace to exactly who the blame should be placed on? And futhermore, who is responsible for the lack of water in a desert region. The answer would seem to be mother nature, and we certainly cannot force mother nature to bring water to these people.  If we want to prevent this rights violation, we must research new, innovative ways to get clean water to people who need it.  I don’t have all the answers, but I think this is a topic that should be looked at in depth and researched for possible solutions. The current situation is not acceptable, and we must work hard ot bring about a change so that all people have the opportunity to access clear, clean, and safe water.

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14 years ago

[…] Jenni’s recent post on “Water Human Rights: Pollution,” I started to question the safety and current state of the public water system here in the […]

Carla Thiart
Carla Thiart
5 years ago

Good day,
I am doing a research project on the environmental issues due to the water pollution at a local river. What laws or rights are broken due to this issues?

Kind regards
Carla Thiart

17 days ago

Access to clean water is a fundamental human right, yet pollution severely undermines this right for many people around the world. Contaminated water sources can lead to serious health problems, restrict access to safe drinking water, and exacerbate social inequalities. Effective monitoring and remediation of water pollution are essential to uphold this basic human right. Equinox Labs, India’s leading water testing laboratory, is at the forefront of this mission. With state-of-the-art technology and a dedication to precision and reliability, Equinox Labs offers comprehensive water quality testing services. Their work ensures that communities are informed about their water quality and empowered to take necessary actions to secure their right to clean and safe water.