World Water Day (March 22)
Illegal economic activities are a threat to indigenous water supply (Press Release)
On the occasion of the United Nations World Water Day on March 22, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) would like to draw attention to the topic of clean drinking water as a human right. "In many regions of the world, however, people have only limited access to this vital resource," explained Regina Sonk, STP expert on indigenous peoples. "Indigenous communities are particularly affected by this – because they often live in areas where illegal agriculture and mining put more strain on natural water resources than can be handled." When states tacitly approve of illegal farming, the interests of the often marginalized indigenous population are ignored completely.
One example is the Rio Tarumã, which until recently flowed through the indigenous village of Acorizal. The river was the center of economic and cultural life for the Chiquitanos in the southwestern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. "One day in January of this year, the water stopped flowing. What remained was contaminated mud," Sonk stated. "For two weeks, the Chiquitanos tried to ascertain the reason for the sudden drying up." Not far from their village, there are large cattle farms and soybean acreage. Upstream, the environmental agency found an abandoned illegal construction site: excavators had been used to try to divert and dam the river water. To this day, it is not clear who was responsible. "The Chiquitanos, however, now have to manage without an important part of their livelihood for an indefinite period. To prevent such disasters in the future, there needs to be better awareness of the value of water, also on the part of regulators," Sonk emphasized.
The United Nations aims to raise awareness with the World Water Day, which has been held under a different theme each year since 1993. This year's theme "Valuing Water" is linked to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and the World Water Day is supposed to help strengthen Sustainable Development Goal 6: "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all." Apart from that, March 22 is also the release date of the annual UN World Water Report.