Nepal Water Conservation Foundation ...

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Human rights and water issues are interlinked on multiple levels. The displacement of populations and destruction of cultures that commonly accompany major water projects are perhaps the best-known sets of interlinked issues. In many parts of the world, however, pervasive health, basic needs and poverty concerns arise when access to water is limited. As a result, some see access to minimum daily supplies of water as a fundamental human right. In some cases, access to water is limited by physical availability. In many other cases, however, it is a function of human institutions and their operation. As in many natural resource fields, the establishment of private rights to water is often advocated as essential for efficient allocation and management of available supplies. This may raise fundamental ethical questions regarding the allocation of resources that are, under the cultural and religious traditions of many populations, a common heritage.  The issue is not just theoretical. When well-owners sell ‘their’ water to urban consumers and take agricultural lands out of production (as is happening in Yemen, India and the Western US), do the populations displaced from traditional agricultural activities have any ‘right’ to protest the reallocation of water or claim a share in the benefits from water sales? What ‘rights’ should society retain when, in response to practical management needs or the pragmatic recognition of power relations in society, water rights are allocated to specific users? Furthermore, if public or individual ‘non-right holder’ rights remain, how should they be protected and given voice?

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