Access to water and sanitation in Namibia

  1. What is the right to water and sanitation?(see Resolution 64/292)
  • In November 2002, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 on the right to water. Article 1.1 states that “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realisation of other human rights”.  Comment No. 15 also defined the right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.
  • Right to water has not been explicitly recognised as a self-standing human right in international treaties, however international human rights law, entail specific obligations related to access to safe drinking water. These obligations require states to ensure everyone has access to a sufficient amount of safe drinking water for personal and domestic uses, defined as water for drinking personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal, and household hygiene. These obligations also require states to progressively ensure access to adequate sanitation as a fundamental element of human dignity and privacy.
  • The right to water has not enjoyed independent recognition as a human right, because it is interrelated to other human rights such as adequate standard of living, adequate housing, and the right to health. More examples are dealt with hereunder.
  •  Since 1977, it became necessary for the international community to revisit some of the important international instruments in order to include the right to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, because without this being a self-standing right other rights were being violated. Also, because the right to water and sanitation was not self-standing, it became a justification used by many states to violate other human rights. Although these instruments are not legally binding they reflect a consensus and a political statement of intent on the importance of recognising and realising the right to water.
  1. The International Human Rights Treaties entailing specific obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted in 1979 – Article 14 (2);
  • The International Labour Organisation Convention no 161 Concerning Occupational Health Services adopted in 1975 Article 5;
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989, Articles 24 and 27 (3);
  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted 2006, Article 28;
  1. National laws in respect of access to water:
    • The Namibian Constitution:
    • Article 95
    • Article 144
    • Water Research Act 34 of 1971
  1. Key aspects of the rights to water:

The right to water contains freedoms. These freedoms include:

  • protection against arbitrary and illegal disconnections, i.e. municipal disconnections without following proper procedures; fees concluded on estimated and not actual water measurements;
  • prohibition of unlawful pollution of water resources (Tsumeb smelter and Ramatex);
  • non-discrimination in access to water and sanitation (walking long distances to access water when they pay for the water, water points should be nearer and more points should be placed in one area);
  • erection and maintenance of adequate sanitation facilities such as bathrooms and toilets should be accessible and in a working condition (see obligations of citizens);
  • sanitation facilities should provide separate toilets; bathing facilities and incinerator septic system for disposal of sanitary towels etc.
  • Non-interference with access to existing water supplies especially to traditional water resources as long as it is safe and clean; and
  • ensuring that personal security is not threatened when accessing water and sanitation outside the home.
  1. Key international requirements for access to water
    Water for personal and domestic use must be of safe and acceptable quality, meaning: