There is a constant debate as to whether drinking water is a privilege or a right. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (UN), water is a basic human right. In short, everyone should have access to clean and safe drinking water. In most parts of Australia, for example, it is acceptable to drink tap water. It is also common for one to reach out for bottled water. However, this is not the case for the Aboriginal communities of Australia. Somewhere in September 2014, an acute water shortage affected the Utopia Homelands, an Indigenous community living in the Northern Territory of Australia. This is following the collapse of a bore at Amengernternenh during council maintenance works. In turn, various communities as well as the Urapuntja health service had little or no access to water and sanitation for 10 whole weeks. Additionally, 50 school-children had no drinking water at their school. This led to an outbreak of scabies, which can cause kidney disease. According to sources, the situation is merely rectified privately via fundraising efforts.

Elsewhere, in the developing world, Thailand’s iced beverages are cause for concern. According to Australian traveller Holly Woods to the country, she was always cautious whenever she orders iced drinks due to the possibility that one might be seriously ill. This brings us to the next point on deaths due to the consumption of contaminated water. As indicated by Woods, there are 884 million people living in developing nations without access to a safe water source. Jenny Clement, CARE Australia’s Country Program Manager, said that mortalities due to contaminated water-related illnesses can be prevented by constructing simple yet efficient water management systems. In 2012, the non-profit aid agency CARE Australia assisted over 1.5 million people access safe drinking water, revamped hygiene and sanitation as well as outline sustainable water management practices in countries including Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile in the US, its federal government once retaliated to the UN that providing citizens with access to clean and safe drinking water should be at the discretion of each state and area. This is because some policymakers are of the perception that easy access to water may result in the state embracing socialism. Furthermore, effective enforcement requires much consideration: how is one to ensure that those who can afford it do so, and those in real need of aid get it. In the US at least, the public sector should provide a solution should private corporations fail to reach out to those who are unable to pay their water bills due to financial constraints. Such a combination represents capitalism with a heart.

The fact that water is still a privilege in some parts of the world, especially in developing nations, shows that much more needs to be done by the relevant stakeholders. More importantly, those who have access to safe drinking water should not mock those less fortunate.

– Yong Jo Leen, Correspondent (Our World)

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