Blue Planet et al. Appeal to UN over Detroit Water cut-off to Thousands

By Sarah Lazare

'By denying water service to thousands, Detroit is violating the human right to water.'

As thousands of people in Detroit go without water, and the city moves to cut off services to tens of thousands more, concerned organizations have taken the unusual step of appealing to the United Nations to intervene and protect the "human right to water."

“After decades of policies that put businesses and profits ahead of the public good, the city now has a major crisis on its hands," said Maude Barlow, founder of Blue Planet Project and board chair of Food & Water Watch, in a statement. “By denying water service to thousands, Detroit is violating the human right to water."

The Submission to the Special Rapporteur was released Wednesday by the Detroit People’s Water Board, the Blue Planet Project, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Food & Water Watch.

It calls for the "state of Michigan and U.S. government to respect the human right to water and sanitation" and for shut-offs to be halted, services restored, and water to be made accessible and affordable.

The report comes on the heels of the Detroit's city council's Tuesday approval of an 8.7 percent increase in water rates, part of a long-standing trend that, according to Food & Water Watch, has seen prices increase 119 percent over the past decade.

This rate hike follows an announcement in March by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department that it would start turning off water for accounts that are past due.  According to a late May Director's Report from the DWSD, there were "44,273 shut-off notices sent to customers in April 2014" alone, resulting in "3,025 shut-offs for nonpayment, and additional collections of $400,000."

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, who was appointed to power by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in March 2013, has aggressively pursued privatization and austerity measures across the city. "Nothing is off the chopping block, including water utilities, which are being considered for regionalization, sale, lease, and/or public private partnership and are currently subject to mediation by a federal district judge," reads the report.

"The Detroit People’s Water Board fears that authorities see people’s unpaid water bills as a 'bad debt' and want to sweeten the pot for a private investor by imposing even more of the costs of the system on those least able to bear them," the report continues.

Residents say the mass cut-off of this vital service is especially unjust in a city already struggling with high unemployment, a poverty rate near 40 percent, and a foreclosure crisis that has devastated and displaced people across the city, hitting Detroit's African American community especially hard.

"When delinquent corporate water lines are still running without collection of funds, it demonstrates a level of intentional disparity that devalues the lives of the people struggling financially," said Lila Cabbil, President Emeritus of the Rosa Parks Institute, which is part of the People’s Water Board. "Where is our compassion? Where is our humanity?"


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10 Responses

  1. where do I sign up for free water? so many of us have been paying for it all these years.

  2. Bill: did you not read the article? Apparently the city is not cutting water off to industrial customers that haven’t paid their bills, but is doing so w residential customers. Why?

    • We hadf a news story not so long ago here in Tampa. A puff piece about a ” successful ” developer who just finished a 30,000 sq ft “home” on snotty Davis Island. The reporter was impressed, especially with the “water features,” several pools, hot tubs, and numerous fountains. The guy asked the owner how much water he used. About 2 million gallons a year. Average water use here is 75 gal a week, and development is draining our Floridan aquifer. When asked why he indulged in the use of so much water, the guy said “because I can afford it. I even get the reduced rate for being such a large user.” Sounds like bill’s kind of guy…

      • Another Snider in FL only named “Scott”. Here in NM we get hit hard with penalties for water use above allotment.

  3. The people who were lured to Detroit (many of them African American decesndants of slaves),weren’t told that these jobs would be leaving for Mexico, Japan, and wherever the cheapest labor was. No one back then imagined that so called Patriotic American Companies would turn traitor (except Marx). There was no vote taken. The people of Detroit weren’t told their pensions were being stolen and weren’t asked. The “Emergency Manager” appointed by the sell off everything and become serfs advocating governor slick Rick Snider was not voted for. After the State lowered corporate taxes all of a sudden the state “was bankrupt” and was “forced” to sell bonds to wall st. at exhorbidant usurious interest rates.

    • The jobs were robotified out of existence starting in the 1950s. Shipping what was left to Mexico came decades later.

  4. Creating a “crisis” and then addressing it with new resources obtained from “outraged” observers is a time-honored political ploy. The State will step in and another Detroit problem is solved. Of course, the solution has nothing to do with actually solving the problem. It simply means the problem is pushed to others.

    • The goal is not for the State to step in, but for Wall Street to step in and replace democracy forever. Have you ever heard of “The Shock Doctrine”? This appointed “Emergency Manager” is a dictator, and you will only see them appointed where the Republicans want to strip blacks of power, all in concert with voter suppression laws and secession and nullification threats all over the country. The capitalist class recognizes that once whites cease to be a majority, democracy might finally be used against them.

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