On 28th July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to the Right to Water and Sanitation (A/64/292). The declaration was signed by Nepal, along with Finland and many other countries (though not all), and several subsequent resolutions have developed it further. Since General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/169 in 2015, water and sanitation are recognised as two separate human rights. The resolution recognises that the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use; and to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity.
The Constitution of Nepal (2015) also recognised many rights, including in articles 30(1) and 35(4) that all citizens have the fundamental right to live in a healthy and clean environment and to access basic clean drinking water and sanitation services.
However, rights on paper doesn’t make them happen in practice! Government duty bearers need to know about them and have the tools to act. Water users need to know their rights and responsibilities.
The Rural Village Water Resources Management Project (RVWRMP) in Nepal (financed by the Governments of Finland and Nepal, and the European Union, and implemented through local government) is committed to support the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. The project began with a focus on construction of rural water supply, sanitation and livelihoods development in the most remote areas of the country, and that continues. However, we recognise that in line with the Right to Water and Sanitation, the responsibility falls to government duty bearers. Much of our work is now focused on developing the capacities of the local governments in Sudurpaschim and Karnali Provinces to plan for and deliver this right to their citizens.
This includes the recently initiated process to establish WASH Units and WASH Management Boards in each rural municipality, thus institutionalizing at local level the planning, management and maintenance of water schemes. In addition, capacity building is provided to develop a Rural Municipality (RM) Strategic WASH Plan, to support the RM to achieve its development goals for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030. The focus is on ensuring that hardship areas and disadvantaged groups get first priority for new water supply and sanitation assistance, and that attention is given to functionality, safety and sustainability of water supply schemes.
RVWRMP is giving continuing support to raising awareness on discrimination, and improving the access of all, including disadvantaged castes, menstruating women, the frail elderly and people living with disabilities. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it is happening. In these times of the Covid-19 pandemic, clean water and good hygiene is more important than ever – and to safeguard communities, everyone needs to have access!.
Let’s celebrate this step taken by many countries and organisation globally ten years ago to agree to the Right to Water and Sanitation – and set us on the road to achieving this resolution in reality for everyone!