Celebrating Three Grassroots Groups Fighting for Clean Water

Everyone on the planet needs clean water. But 783 million people worldwide don’t have it. People in the developing world—particularly in low-income and indigenous communities—are at heightened risk of having their water supply polluted by corporations that are constructing dams, mining for natural resources, or undertaking other megaprojects. As companies proceed with these projects, they frequently ignore the impact on local people, and they often proceed with little or no input from the communities living on or near the proposed project sites.

We believe that everyone has the right to access safe water, to participate in decisions about projects that will affect their own communities, and to manage their communities’ natural resources in ecologically sustainable and equitable ways.

We are inspired by the organizations AJWS supports, which are working on the frontlines to challenge illegal mining contracts, educate communities about corporate projects that could diminish their access to clean water, and empower citizens to speak out.

To celebrate World Water Day, here are the inspiring stories of grassroots organizations and activists working for access to clean water in Uganda, Cambodia, and Mexico.

National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Uganda

Peter, a member of National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) in Uganda interviews local fishermen at Lake Albert in Uganda. NAPE supports fishermen of the Albertine region who are seeing the precious aquatic life they depend on for their livelihoods disappear because of pollution from oil drilling, mining, and deforestation by large companies. NAPE educates fisherman about the devastating effects of oil and broadcasts their stories on a local radio show that advocates for the sustainable and equitable use of the environment to benefit all people in Uganda.

Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), Cambodia

Women stand in the dry basin of Boeung Kak Lake near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 2007, the government leased land to a company launching a new tourism project in the area without consulting the 4,000 families living there. Most families were coerced to sell their property for a pittance before being forcibly relocated to slums. The government granted a small portion of land near the lake to those families who resisted, but has yet to grant them land titles. Meanwhile, the company has filled the lake with sand, depriving the remaining residents of a vital source of food and water. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) provides legal aid to communities embroiled in land rights struggles, and is fighting for the rights of the families affected by the Beoung Kak Lake project.

Proyecto de Derechos Economicos, Sociales y Culturales (PRoDESC), Mexico

The rapid growth of mineral mining across Mexico has ravaged local communities. The digging has stripped local land—ruining it for farming—and polluted sources of drinking water, multiplying health problems and miscarriages. Alejandra Ancheita is founder and executive director of Proyecto de Derechos Economicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC)—an organization that helps communities understand their rights, exert political influence and negotiate with corporations and the government to protect their families and their land. Thanks to her advocacy with ProDESC, the community of La Sierrita de Galeana recently forced a Canadian mining company to provide social services and community development projects to mitigate the negative impacts of a mining project.