Activists Call on U.N. to Intervene in Detroit Water Shutoffs

William A. Hudson

With the city of Detroit facing the loss of tax payers and mounting debt, a March decision to shut off the water supply to 3,000 of the city's homes and businesses has sparked outrage from community leaders and activists who are now appealing to the United Nations to intervene. A letter sent to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation last week by the nonprofits Detroit People’s Water Board, Food and Water Watch and the Canada-based Blue Planet Project requests the international body intercede on behalf of the city’s poorest inhabitants who are at high risk of losing their needed water supply. Al Jazeera reports: "What we see is a violation of the human right to water," said Meera Karunananthan, an international campaigner with the Blue Planet Project. "The U.S. has international obligations in terms of people’s right to water, and this is a blatant violation of that right. We’re hoping the U.N. will put pressure on the federal government and the state of Michigan to do something about it." The activists claim that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) is putting an unnecessary burden on at-risk citizens by raising water rates to get rid of those customers while prepping the utility for privatization. All of this comes as the DWSD has accumulated $175 million in debt. 

William A. Hudson is a summer 2014 In These Times intern.
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