Detroit’s emergency manager filed for bankruptcy in July 2013 to force creditors to negotiate a bankruptcy plan that would slash the city’s unwieldy debt. Last month, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit approved a plan that would over time give Detroit a chance to survive. Missing from the plan, however, is any mention of the disturbance and threat to the rights to water and health of Detroit’s poor caused by the abrupt shut off of their water service.
After last week's high profile protests and a stern rebuke by the bankruptcy judge, Detroit Water and Sewage Department is suspending water shutoffs in order to give people who cannot pay their bills an opportunity to work out a plan.
Activists in Detroit have appealed to the United Nations over the city’s move to shut off the water of thousands of residents. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says half of its 323,000 accounts are delinquent and has begun turning off the taps of those who do not pay bills that total above $150 or that are 60 days late.
First, water is a human right and must be more equitably shared. The United Nations has recognized that drinking water and sanitation are fundamental rights and that governments have obligations not only to supply these services to their people but also to prevent harm to source water.