From: Reuters
Published March 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Bolivia Says Water is a Right, Opposes Declaration

MEXICO CITY — Bolivia is refusing to sign an international declaration on the importance of clean water because it falls short of calling access to it a human right, a government minister said Monday.

South America's poorest country, increasingly vocal on the world stage since the election of leftist President Evo Morales, is holding out against other nations and international bodies at the World Water Forum being held in Mexico City.

Bolivian Water Minister Abel Mamani told Reuters that La Paz wants to explicitly call supplies of clean water a human right in a document to be signed at the meeting this week.

"It's very clear that we all have a right to life and health," Mamani said. "The right to life and right to health without water is contradictory."

A draft of the declaration calls water important to the poor and to people's health but does not describe it as a human right.

Morales created a water ministry after taking power in January and appointed Mamani, an activist in recent years who was key in chasing foreign water companies like French utility Suez out of Bolivia.

Mamani said privatization of water services in Bolivia led to soaring prices that left clean water out of reach of the country's poorest people.

"You can't use a thing as important as water, which is synonymous with life, to make money," Mamani said. "We're talking about something that unfortunately is necessary for survival."

The World Water Forum's ruling body is made up of members from governments, international organizations like the World Bank, scientists and business people.

Around 1.1 billion people around the world, mostly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, lack easy access to safe drinking water.

Delegates at the meeting have said new ideas and investments are needed to meet a U.N. goal of halving by 2015 the number of people without safe drinking water.

Mamani complained that the entry fee to the forum, at $120 per day, effectively excluded the poor from participating in the event.

Source: Reuters

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