"Jordan in constant water crisis" – UN expert urges long-term solution while tackling emergencies
AMMAN / GENEVA (17 March 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, called on the Government of Jordan to take a holistic approach to its water and sanitation strategies.
“Jordan is at a critical moment and is struggling with severe water shortage issues,” Ms. de Albuquerque said at the end of a six-day visit to Jordan. “The existing emergency measures to the water scarcity problem are not sufficient or sustainable.”
“There must be a link between current emergency needs with a long-term, comprehensive development strategy that ensures access to water and sanitation for all people in Jordan,” she stressed.
The water and sanitation systems are also struggling to ensure sustainability. The expert called on the Government of Jordan to “accord clear priority to water for human consumption over other uses and to explicitly recognize the human rights to water and sanitation in the law.”
“The current system creates injustices,” noted the expert. “I met a 64 year-old man, Sulaiman Ali who has been living with his wife in his own house in a suburb of Amman for over 20 years. His house is still not connected to the water network despite his repeated applications to the water authority. He is forced to devote almost 50 per cent of his monthly income to paying water tankers and sludge collection,” Ms. de Albuquerque said.
The Special Rapporteur called on the Government to translate its political will into a long-term strategy to balance sustainability and affordability of the water and sanitation systems.
“This should result in a new tariff system that requires better-off households to pay higher tariffs, while poorer households would be guaranteed a lower, subsidized price,” she said. “The revision must extend to non-domestic water tariffs. The tariff system should aim at balancing water savings and adequate provision.”
“During the visit, I was very moved by the longstanding generosity and real hospitality of the Jordanian Government and the Jordanian people in accommodating successive waves of refugees in their country,” the human rights expert noted.
“I urge both the Government and the international community to further work together to shift from the current emergency stance to a proper medium and longer-term response in order to ensure the sustainable provision of water and sanitation not only to refugees but to the wider Jordanian population,” Ms. de Albuquerque concluded.
Jordan is one of the three most water scarce countries in the world. The severe water scarcity has been exacerbated by drought, depletion of groundwater reserves, population growth, inflow of migrant workers and climate change. This combined with several waves of refugees resulting from conflicts in the region – the latest from Syria – has increased these pressures.
Despite these difficulties, considerable progress has been made: 98 per cent of households are connected to the water network and 68 per cent are connected to the sewerage network, 98 per cent of the collected wastewater being treated.
The Special Rapporteur will present a formal report on this mission to an upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in September, which will include the final findings and recommendations to the Government of Jordan.