Bottled water: an environmental human rights issue?

Have you ever thought whatever happens to your plastic waterbottle? Even if you put it into a recycling bin (which most people worldwide don’t), the plastic can only be effectively recycled around 5 times before it becomes permanent waste and… lands in the backyard of Indian urban dwellers polluting their environment and diminishing their life quality.

Moreover, this is happening in the world where billions of people do not have sufficient access to safe drinking water.
According to UN’s Millennium Development Goals, USD 10 billion should be spent each year to decrease the proportion of people without sustainable access to drinking water by 50% by 2015. To compare, USD 100 billion is spent annually worldwide on bottled water.

Money needed to deal with all the waste and pollution created by consuming bottled water diverts attention and investment from a very important issue: providing access to safe drinking water for all. Clean water should be considered a basic human right, rather than a  commodity that corporations can profit on.

You can read more about why it is a good idea to quit the plastic bottles in IYNF’s “Green Toolbox” publication.

This is a post suggested by Lila Religa, participant of the Study Session “Youth Encountering Environmental Human Rights”

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Climate change and gender – vulnerability, coping strategies and policy making.

Women are more vulnerable to climate change than men

Women are more vulnerable to climate change than men

It is widely recognised that climate change does not affect people equally. The related disasters and impacts often intensify existing inequalities, vulnerabilities, economic poverty and unequal power relations. Differently positioned women and men perceive and experience climate change in diverse ways because of their distinct socially constructed gender roles, responsibilities, status and identities, which result in varied coping strategies and responses.

Often, women are more vulnerable to climate change than men. This is because they make up the majority of the world’s economically poor, do most of the agricultural work, bear unequal responsibility for household food security, carry a disproportionate burden for harvesting water and fuel for everyday survival, and rely on threatened natural resources for their livelihoods. Moreover, they have unequal access, control and ownership to these natural resources, and are often excluded from important decision and policy-making forums and institutions that govern them.

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Environmental right are human rights – introductions by Friends of Earth

Ava Guarani during the land right protest

Ava Guarani during the land right protest

People all over the world are claiming their rights. In early 2004, the Ava Guarani people of Argentina marched 1,774 miles to demand that the government return the 5,000 hectares of their ancestral territory given to a global corporation for sugar production. Cameroonian cocoa farmers have taken a French forest company to court for destroying their plantations in the mad rush to export logs. Friends of the Earth Uruguay and others have organized a national referendum that could make access to water a fundamental human right. Maple sugar tappers in the United States have sued the Bush administration, claiming that their livelihoods are threatened by the global climate change to which the United States is a major contributor. Tens of thousands of Europeans are demanding the right to eat food free of genetically modified organisms. And the list goes on.

What all of these claims have in common is that they are based on people’s environmental rights. Environmental rights mean access to the unspoiled natural resources that enable survival, including land, shelter, food, water and air. They also include more purely ecological rights, including the right for a certain beetle to survive or the right for an individual to enjoy an unspoiled landscape.

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Environment and Human Rights: excerpt from Council of Europe’s Compass


Bangladeshi ‘water migrants’

It is not possible to separate the environment – the deserts, forests or urban sprawl – from people and human rights issues, especially those of social justice and development. This is not only true in Africa, but also everywhere, including Europe. The environment and people have a two-way relationship: all human activity impacts on the environment and the environment impacts on human life. One example is the “greenhouse effect”. 300 years of using oil, coal and gas to fuel industrial development worldwide has contributed significantly to global warming. The consequent catastrophic climatic events we have witnessed in the last four years affect people all over the globe. However, people in the rich countries of the North, which are largely to blame for the carbon dioxide  missions, are better able to protect themselves against “natural disasters” than those living in developing countries of the South. These are questions of justice and therefore also questions of human rights.

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Human Rights and The Environment: quick intro to the connections

The following human rights are often affected by environmental harms:


Right to Life The right to life has extensive environmental links. It could be linked to any environmental disruption that directly contributed to the loss of lives – including to the mentioned air pollution causing 2.4 million deaths per year.

Right to Health This right, closely linked to the right to life, is often violated in cases of pollution of air, land or water.

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