The Fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square was used by a student from Ipswich to highlight water awareness. Dressed as a toilet, he carried a placard stating that "water and sanitation are human rights". PR from Water Aid, the charity backing him claimed that 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation. Presumably this implies that everyone has a right to a flush toilet.
A great idea, But has anyone actually given any thought as to where all the water for this human right will come from? Or where all the toilet paper that will be flushed down these toilets will come from? Or where all the effluent will go? Like so many of the quick fix solutions to world poverty being inflicted on the less developed world, virtually no thought is given to the environmental impacts. I have tried to gather data on this topic, and would be really interested to see copies of any correspondence relating to EIAs [Environmental Impact Assessments]; I know for a fact that many aid charities do not carry them out, so it is always worth writing to charities to find out if they carry them out, and with what results. What is the Environmental impact of changing traditional farming methods to 'improved' western technology? What is the environmental impact of using artificial fertilisers, pesticides? What is the environmental impact of deep boreholes for water?
I do not have a problem with emergency aid, following natural or even man-made disasters, but long-term, so called development aid, is often ill thought out, with little or no thought about the long-term environmental consequences. And providing water for everyone to use with western style profligacy is one of the biggest potential disasters I can think of. Meanwhile, we at the World Land Trust are working with several of our partner NGOs, to conserve watersheds. They are just as important as the tropical forests that often grow around them.
Is a flush toilet a basic human right or is it a luxury?