SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)- UN human rights officials have condemned local authorities of the US city of Detroit for cutting off water supplies to thousands of residents over unpaid bills.
“We were shocked, impressed by the proportions of the disconnections and by the way that it is affecting the weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable,” Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, said during a news conference on Monday.
De Albuquerque and Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, arrived in Detroit on Octobers 18 to conduct an inquiry into the city’s water shutoffs.
Detroit has closed the taps for more than 27,000 people this year, with as many as 10,000 households at present without running water. Hundreds of thousands of more people are at risk of having their water connections disconnected.
UN special rapporteurs de Albuquerque and Farha said that water bills are becoming increasingly unaffordable, forcing residents to make impossible choices between paying their bills or their rent.
They added that the situation is worsened by gross errors on water bills and costs of leakage from crumbling infrastructure.
“It is contrary to human rights to disconnect water from people who simply do not have the means to pay their bills,” de Albuquerque said.
“I heard testimonies from poor, African-American residents of Detroit who were forced to make impossible choices – to pay the water bill or to pay their rent,” she stated.
Detroit has been disconnecting water supplies over unpaid bills since the city filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2013.