The General Workers’ Union and the Anti-Poverty Forum have joined forces to promote a petition launched by the European Public Service Union, which the GWU forms part of, calling on the EU to put water as a human right on its agenda.

The petition is a European Citizen’s initiative and one million signatures from the 27 EU states are required.

It states:

“We invite the European Commission to propose legislation implementing the human right to water and sanitation as recognised by the United Nations, and promoting the provision of water and sanitation as essential public services for all. The EU legislation should require governments to ensure and to provide all citizens with sufficient and clean drinking water and sanitation. We urge that:

“The EU institutions and Member States be obliged to ensure that all inhabitants enjoy the right to water and sanitation.

“Water supply and management of water resources not be subject to ‘internal market rules’ and that water services are excluded from liberalisation.

“The EU increases its efforts to achieve universal access to water and sanitation.”

In Malta it can be signed at the Millennium Chapel or the GWU headquarters up to the end of November. It can also be signed online up to the end of August next year.

The petition was announced during a conference “Water is a human right” organised by the GWU and the Anti-Poverty Forum.

Hydrologist Marco Cremona called for an autonomous regulator, independent from a ministry and answerable to Parliament with strong executive and enforcement powers to ensure sustainability of water resources to ensure there was enough water for a right to water.

Malta, he pointed out, lacked the essential infrastructure to keep rainwater from going to the sea.

At the same time the country was taking water from the sea and using reverse osmosis to change it into usable water.

While before the 1980s all water used in Malta used to come from the aquifer, 35 per cent now came through RO, 25 per from the aquifer, the rest from private boreholes.

Biodiversity expert Alfred Baldacchino said that although water was taken for  granted it had an economic, ecologic and social value. Future wars, he said, would not revolve around oil or territory but water resources. Water conflicts already existed in north Africa.

Mr Baldacchino noted that the lack of access to water in Malta had discouraged the knights from wanting to come. But once here they built an infrastructure including wells and canals, which were neglected after they left and went downhill over the past 50 years.

He noted that Malta was not enforcing the well rule.

Claudia Taylor East from SOS Malta said the EU should be on the alert about the precarious situation all over Europe.

Over the past 10 years, she said, SOS Malta focused on the collection of rain water in under developed countries through simple inexpensive systems, but this water was being lost in Europe. If Malta did not have water in the next 15 years, it would end up like these least developed countries.

The participants of the conference walked to St George’s Square in Valletta where they launched and signed the petition.

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