The people of Detroit reached out to the United Nations and the United Nations has responded by apparently condemning, in very serious terms, Detroit’s plan to shut off water for tens of thousands of people.
GENEVA (25 June 2014) – Three UN experts* on the human rights to water and sanitation, adequate housing, and extreme poverty and human rights expressed concern Wednesday about reports of widespread water disconnections in the US city of Detroit of households unable to pay water bills. “Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,” the experts said.
“Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying. In other words, when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, the expert on the human right to water and sanitation. [...]
Leilani Farha, the expert on the right to adequate housing, expressed concern that children are being removed by social services from their families and homes because, without access to water, their housing is no longer considered adequate. “If these water disconnections disproportionately affect African Americans they may be discriminatory, in violation of treaties the US has ratified,” Farha added.
This isn’t a moment to be proud, to say the least.
Given what the city of Detroit has been through, between decades of corporate malfeasance, disaster capitalists, corrupt politicians, and generally being the butt of every joke, I find it cruel to even consider blaming and punishing people who can’t afford water.
We’re long past the point of saying it’s Okay if a major American city becomes an impoverished hellhole. Now we’re debating if the hellhole should have running water.
According to the Detroit News, approximately 165,000 of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s customers were behind on their bills as recently as March of this year.