Pope Francis has fully entered into a problem that is not seen on the front page of newspapers, but its consequences are devastating: access to water and to uncontaminated water.
Before almost a hundred world experts, he called for the right to water to have a central importance in public legislation and for leaders to seek effective solutions to guarantee access to all. Water, he said, is one of the fundamental rights of the world today.
"It is painful to see when in the legislation of a country or a group of countries, water is not considered a human right. It is even more painful when it is removed from legislation and this human right is denied. I ask myself if in the midst of this third World War happening in pieces, are we on the way to a larger world war over water?”
He concluded by recalling the chilling fact from the United Nations that nearly 1,000 children die every day from diarrheal diseases and that they are the third leading cause of death among children under five.
"Let's not forget the data, the figures from the United Nations. Let's not forget that every day, 1,000 children - every day - die from water-related diseases. Thank you very much."
His speech left a mark on the experts, both believers and non-believers alike. For two days, all of them debated the causes and possible solutions to end the collateral contamination; one produced by companies that pour their waste into rivers without being fined for it.
Public Services International (PSI)
"Can I tell you this? From the point of view of an non-believer committed to social problems and the defense of workers, I believe the pope is the only world leader who is actually carrying out a discourse of struggle against injustice and inequality. Unfortunately I do not see others living up to it."
PETER H. GLEICK
"I think we know that simply declaring a 'Human Right to water' would not solve the world's water problems, but is a critical step forward to acknowledging that there is a problem to insisting the governments start to take action to solve the problems of water.”
The pope has mentioned the problem of water on other occasions, but the fundamental point was his social encyclical published in 2015 called Laudato si'. It is a social document that promotes sustainable care of the planet and an equitable distribution of resources. The poorest on the planet are the ones who suffer the most due to consequences of pollution and inequality.