'Constitutional right' to water going unmet in Tunisia

  • New study shows that more than one in every ten houses in Tunisia currently lacks a water supply, despite guarantees made in the 2014 constitution.
  • Two in every five houses in Kasserine, an important trading city situated beneath Tunisia’s largest mountain, remain disconnected from drinking water.
  • Short film “Kasserine, Water of Dignity” produced by International Alert and Nomad 08 premiered today.

International Alert, in partnership with the Nomad08 association, hosted a symposium at the Rio Hall in Tunis earlier today (December 15) dedicated to presenting a vital campaign, #Water _is _a _constitutional _right.

The event represented the conclusion of a profound project, “Strengthening Participatory Democratic Governance of Water in the governorate of Kasserine.” Attendees heard of the actions necessary to realise the constitutional right to water.

A highlight of the event was the unveiling of a short documentary film, “Kasserine, Water of Dignity”. Director Samed Hajji presented a vivid depiction of the unequal access that exists around the right to drinking water in Kasserine – a region with a population of 110,000 people located beneath the Jebel ech Chambi mountain – as well as industrial pollution and its impact on water resources.

Participants discussed the documentary in the presence of Olfa Lamloum, director of International Alert in Tunisia, Alaa Marzouki, the executive director of Nomad 08, lawyer Mohamed Bouzagro, and Samed Hajji himself.

Olfa Lamloum said: “It is necessary to form a broad association alliance that defends the right of access to water for marginalised regions. An environmentally-friendly development alternative is needed, one that stops the depletion of the water table that has resulted from the current production methods.”

Kasserine ranks third nationally in terms of the frequency of water cuts. Internal (in-land) regions remain marginalised across Tunisia. 

The symposium underscored the inequality around access to water across wider Tunisia also. A research paper, “The Water System in Tunisia”, was produced by Alert for the event, unravelling the legislative framework for water governance and showing how guarantees can be achieved.

Unjust distribution

The study showed that 84 percent of houses across Tunisia are connected to drinking water and in Kasserine the ratio falls to just 60 percent. The city’s supply is undermined by a water leakage rate of 30 percent.

Article 44 of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014 guarantees the right to water. However, seven years after ratification, policies and legislation have not been revised to guarantee the right to water for all citizens, without exception.

Successive governments have not adopted any public participatory policies to rationalise the governance of water resources, implement justice of distribution among regions, or ensure the rights of future generations. This is despite the high-profile protests witnessed in many marginalised regions, some of which have been met with repression or unfair trials.

Tunisia’s Water Code, issued in 1975, remains in effect today, despite being limited to technical dimensions and ignoring human rights that should not stop at respecting the provisions of the Constitution. The provisions of the international human rights system, especially the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, are also being undermined.

Alaa Marzouki, the executive director of Nomad 08, said: “The creation of a new Water Code must be urgently accelerated, adopting a participatory approach, to reduce disparities and ensure the right of access to water for marginalised regions.”

The research paper recommended allocating the necessary funds to guarantee the right to water, applying the Polluter Pays Principle, and forcing industrial enterprises to reduce water use.

#water_is_a_constitutional_right #for_a_public_policy_granting_marginalized_regions_the_right_of_access_to_water