India: An official visit by the UN expert on safe drinking water and sanitation

United Nations human rights expert, Mr. Léo Heller,  visited India from 27 October to 10 November 2017 to examine the extent to which people’s rights to safe drinking water and sanitation are being realized.

At the end of his two-week visit, the Special Rapporteur  share his preliminary observations at a press conference on Friday 10 November 2017 at 10:00 local time in the UN Conference Hall, UN House, 55 Lodi Estate, New Delhi-110003.

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Addressing the media in New Delhi, He categorically stated that“I will look at how human rights to water and sanitation are legally recognized and implemented in India at the national, state and local level, and how the provision of water and sanitation services adheres to human rights standards and principles,” said Léo Heller, the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation worldwide.

Replying to volley of question from the media he further explained that his study to explore the human rights to water and sanitation are well implemented in India.But when the specific question was raises by Mr Sagar. Is there any provision for the penalty to the person  responsible to stop accessibility, availability,  of free water to any person caste or community.? His  reply was, it is good question but difficult to penalize the person but name-shame is possible.

The Special Rapporteur will gather information and testimony on the availability, accessibility, affordability, acceptability and safety of drinking water and sanitation, with a particular focus on groups such as women and girls, persons with disabilities, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and those living in informal settlements and rural areas.

The human rights expert, who  visit the country at the invitation of the Government of India, met government representatives at national and local level as well as civil society and community organizations, residents in urban and rural areas, and UN officials.

He  visited the cities of Imphal, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and New Delhi, as well as urban peripheries and rural areas.

“I wanted to explore what still needs to be undertaken to ensure the human rights to water and sanitation are enjoyed by all in India,” Mr. Heller noted. Further he issued note after his mission.

End of Mission Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the human rightsto safe drinking water and sanitation Mr. Léo Heller

As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, I address you today at the conclusion of my official visit to India, which I undertook at the invitation of the Government from 27 October to 10 November 2017.

India is a country with historical gaps regarding the access of its population to adequate water and sanitation services. It is reported that 40 per cent of India’s population practiced open defecation in 2015, one of the highest proportions among all countries.[1] The situation of water and sanitation in the country has resulted in a disturbing impact on human health: diarrhoea-related deaths in India attributable to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene corresponded to 40 per cent of the total number in all low and middle-income countries in 2012.[2] And, to my surprise, this situation is not explained only by the level of development of the country: the Human Development Index of India is higher than that of dozens of other countries.

In recent years, the efforts of the country in addressing these problems, mainly access to sanitation services, have been recognized as an “unprecedented commitment”.

These circumstances motivated me to undertake this visit to the country in order to identify the main obstacles hindering the full realization of the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. Firstly, I would like to thank the Government of India for the invitation and organisation of the visit, and for the dialogues that took place. I am grateful to the central, state and local Government representatives that I met and I appreciate the spirit of openness with which I was able to engage with the authorities. During the visit, I also met with various civil society and community organisations, and residents. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to meet with me and who generously shared their personal experiences, testimonies and living conditions with me. Their contributions were vital to the success of this visit. I would also like to thank the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office in India for facilitating the visit.

Mr. Heller will submit a full report of his findings and recommendations to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2018.

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