The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, wrapped up his visit to the country on Tuesday. During his stay, Heller, who was here at the invitation of the government of Botswana and the United Nations country office, travelled across the country assessing the situation of the human right to water and sanitation in the country, visiting places such as Old Naledi, Maun, Kasane, Sexaxa, Gantsi, D’kar and New Xade.
Heller noted that as much as the country has made efforts to improve its people’s standard of living, Botswana is one of the few remaining countries that have not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which is a strong legal basis for the human rights to water and sanitation.
“I would like to note that the country is bound by international human rights law and principles. According to international human rights law, the State must take measures to ensure, as soon as possible, access to water and adequate sanitation that are accessible, available, affordable, acceptable and safe in all spheres of life,” he said.
Heller said that the realisation of these rights also requires providing access to adequate and affordable hygiene practices, including hand washing and menstrual hygiene management. “Effective measures have to be taken in order to ensure an adequate disposal and treatment of human waste. Furthermore, discrimination is prohibited in relation to basic services including the human rights to water and sanitation,” he said.
Heller said it was high time Botswana considered signing and ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, with the aim to recognise that the human rights to water and sanitation is a crucial first step to realise access to water and sanitation for all without discrimination.
He said that the covenant does not expect the state to realise these rights immediately, but that it rather, provides a framework of the rights and guides on how to implement them.
“A study shows that with the combination of climate change and an increasing demand for water, the level of water stressing in Botswana is envisaged to double by 2040 (from 1.45 in 2010 to 3.0 in 2040). Despite the difficult geographic and environmental conditions, Botswana has made impressive overall progresses in the water and sanitation sector. According to the monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals, the country is expected to achieve 96 percent of access to improved water and 63 percent of access to improved sanitation by the end of 2015. Botswana increased coverage for piped water on premises by 52% during the MDGs period. A significant percentage of people (14%), particularly in rural areas (34%), though, still practice open defecation,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur is expected to submit a comprehensive report to the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2016, which will include his findings, and recommendations to the government of Botswana.