Council celebrates Botswana’s ruling upholding Bushmen’s right to water

Media Release
January 27, 2011

The Botswana Court of Appeal upheld the Kalahari Bushmen’s right to water by quashing a 2010 decision that denied the Bushmen access to a borehole on their ancestral lands.

"This is a major win, it's the first test case of the right to water resolution at the United Nations," says Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians chairperson and former Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the UN General Assembly.  The UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council passed resolutions last year recognizing the right to water and sanitation.

A Bushman spokesman said, ‘We are very happy that our rights have finally been recognized. Like any human beings, we need water to live.'"

The Kalahari Bushmen have been embroiled in a 30-year battle for their right to ancestral lands and the right to water.

After diamonds were discovered in the late 1980s, the Bushmen were cleared from their lands in a wave of forced evictions. Although they were allowed to return in 2006, they were denied access to a borehole, their main source of water. Although the government allowed Gem Diamonds and Wilderness Safari access to water, the Bushmen had to resort to collecting rainwater, melons and roots for drinking water.

The Botswana Court of Appeal ruling notes the recognition of the human right to water at the UN and serves as a precedent for all countries regarding respect for the human right to water in domestic law.

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