Costa Rica mission report of the UN Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation

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Publication Title

Costa Rica mission report of the UN Indpendent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation

Publication Type

UN Independent Expert report to the Human Rights Council

Author(s)

Catarina de Albuquerque

Publication Date

2009

ISBN-ISSN-EAN

Publication URL

Contact

Contents

Summary

The independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation visited Costa Rica from 19 to 27 March 2009. The key themes of the visit were water contamination due to the lack of wastewater treatment, the significant disparities existing in the country with regard to access to potable water and sanitation and the adverse impact of productive and tourism activities on the right of affected communities to have access to a safe water supply.

The independent expert welcomes the significant progress made by Costa Rica in increasing access to water for human consumption and improved sanitation. In 2007, 99 per cent of the urban population and 96 per cent of the rural population had access to an improved source of water, while 82 per cent of the national population had access to safe drinking water. She also notes with satisfaction that approximately 98 per cent of the urban and rural population had access to a source of improved sanitation. The results achieved place Costa Rica among the most advanced countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Costa Rica has developed a comprehensive legal and policy framework for the protection and promotion of access to potable water and sanitation. In particular, the independent expert notes with appreciation that, according to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, access to safe drinking water constitutes an inalienable human right that may be enforced in national courts. The independent expert also notes the efforts made by Costa Rica to improve the quality of water for human consumption and to promote an adequate management of human excreta and wastewater.

Despite the progress made by Costa Rica with regard to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, several key challenges persist in these areas. The independent expert considers that the legal framework created by the 1946 Water Law for the management and use of water resources no longer takes account of the current social and economic situation of the country, and needs to be urgently revised and updated. The existing normative framework on water and sanitation is spread over a wide number of laws and regulations, and its complexity, coupled with the involvement of a large number of institutions and organizations in its implementation, raises serious doubts about the role and responsibilities of these institutions, duplication of responsibilities, lack of inter-agency coordination and, at times, conflicting competencies in the planning and development of water and sanitation policies. Effective implementation of the legislation and policies on water and sanitation is also hindered by the fact that several institutions with competencies to monitor compliance with the existing normative framework do not have sufficient human, technical and financial resources to carry out their monitoring functions effectively.

The independent expert is concerned about the serious disparities existing in some provinces and districts of Costa Rica with regard to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. She notes in particular that an estimated 18 per cent of the population still does not have access to potable water owing to lack of maintenance of existing infrastructures, inefficient management and operation of aqueducts, and the absence of programmes to monitor water quality. She also notes with concern that 63 per cent of human excreta and wastewater is directly disposed of in rivers and other water streams, and that only 3.5 per cent of wastewater is actually treated before being discharged into the natural environment. Indigenous peoples and persons belonging to other marginalized and vulnerable groups, including persons living in poverty, Afro-descendants and migrant workers, often have limited or no access to potable water and adequate sanitation.

Lastly, the independent expert expresses her concerns about the current pattern of tourist and real estate development in the country, especially in the northern coastal areas, which creates serious social conflicts between the demand of local communities for water for human consumption and the economic interests of investors and real estate developers, and risks having long-term negative effects on the water resources of Costa Rica, as well as on the preservation of its natural environment.

References

See also

Report of the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation (2009)

HRBA

Egypt mission report of the UN Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation

Bangladesh Mission Report of the Independent Experts on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation and on the question of human rights and extreme poverty

A Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) to Improve Water Governance in Europe & CIS

External Resources

Attachments

 CostaRicaMissionReportUNIndependentExpert.pdf

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