Cyanotoxins in Suez drinking water sourcesThe "Hiddink Syndrome"

Water and sanitation as a human right

Water and sanitation was declared a human right by the UN. So what does that mean? This was discussed at the session of Water as a human right—new realities of progressive implementation. The right to drinking water can be approached as a multidimensional right to safe, affordable, equitable, available drinking water….. However, it is complex to assess these aspects in the specific local context? Let’s focus on safety first. Recently it has been shown that an improved water supply as defined in the MDGs doesn’t mean a safe water supply. And safe in a developing context can be very different from the already developed context. Investing in pristine water may not be the most efficient improvement of public health in developing countries. On the other hand, in developed countries investments may be done for public perception to keep consumers’ trust in drinking water even when there is no evidence of adverse health effects from the current water quality (a little preview of the health related investments workshop on wednesday).

For sanitation, defining such multi-dimensional aspects is even more complex. The hygiene to the user, exposure of others and the environment, affordability and dignity are aspects that we have little measures for. The presented hexagon can form a good basis and during the rest of this conference I’ll be putting the presentations in this hexagon.

Patrick Smeets