Group Favors Ecosystem Protection over Commercial Water Demands

Food & Water Watch Board Chair Maude Barlow addressed the United Nations General Assembly on April 22 to support the Bolivian call for an annual "International Mother Earth Day" celebration.

Her speech was a call to action to implement the human right to water and abandon the "hard path" of large-scale technology -- dams, diversion, and desalination -- in favor of the "soft path" of conservation, rainwater, and stormwater harvesting, recycling, alternative energy use, municipal infrastructure investment, and local, sustainable food production.

Barlow's speech comes at a time when the quest for a formal right to water instrument is gathering strength both at the United Nations and within countries. She is hopeful that it is only a matter of time before the "blue covenant" she called for in her speech will be a reality.

"The problem is that we humans have seen the Earth and its water resources as something that exists for our benefit and economic advancement rather than as a living ecological system that needs to be safeguarded if it is to survive," Barlow said. "The human water footprint surpasses all others and endangers life on Earth itself."

Barlow, who was appointed last year as senior adviser on water to the president of the United Nations General Assembly, also participated in an afternoon program with Bolivian President Evo Morales, Brazilian writer-theologian Leonardo Boff, and United Nations President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann. Barlow also briefed more than 35 countries and met with key UN agencies on this visit as part of her ongoing commitment to the human right to water.

"Water must be seen as a commons that belongs to the Earth and all species alike. It must be declared a public trust that belongs to the people, the ecosystem, and the future and preserved for all time and practice in law. Clean water must be delivered as a public service, not a profitable commodity," Barlow said "We need to assert once and for all that access to clean, affordable water is a fundamental human right that must be codified in nation-state law and as a full covenant at the United Nations."