Thousands in Detroit without water during Christmas, mostly Black minorities and poor
Detroit, the motor rust of USA, the music hangover of mid last century,nestled by the Great Lakes, and the Detroit river today has a huge chunk of the population without access to water. It all started with the city going bankrupt in 2013 when the governor of the state- Michigan declared a financial emergency and in July, 2013, the city filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in US history.
From March 2014, Detroit, with 5.2 million people has doubled its water rates to ensure the functioning of the water utility and in the process, due to increased tariffs, many households could not afford this steep hike. As a result, the utility went ahead and cut off many households. According to Rasheed Shabazz, Haas Institute Fellow at Berkley in his post, “Poor people of color are at risk of losing water in their homes ” which makes the situation delicate at a time when racial strife in US is on the rise. The expected number of households affected is around 150,000 since the cut off according to The Council of Canadians, a social action organization.
Recently an UN delegation termed the Detroit water shutoff a human rights violation. The Council of Canadians, raised the issue during Christmas questioning if the authorities forgot that this is Christmas time. In June, the Council delivered water from Windsor to Detroit and asked President Obama to declare the situation a state of emergency and a public health crisis.
“If there is anything that shows the spirit of Scrooge, it is Detroit’s lack of compassion for its poorest residents,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians and a reputed water expert. “Unable to bathe, flush their toilets, or brush their teeth with running water, they are facing Christmas camping at other people’s houses. In this cold weather, it is a dreadful situation. The UN has said that this is a human rights violation, and the U.S. has to respect international law. Where is the mayor? Where is Obama?”
The Council of Canadians are using a parody of the Band Aid song Do they know it’s Christmas? in order to show solidarity with the people of Detroit affected by massive water shutoffs.
According to Shabazz in his post, “Detroit’s Water Crisis’ origins go beyond bankruptcy and municipal finance, and its solutions will require empowering city residents, developing dense networks dedicated to identifying and implementing complex solutions and forward thinking that’s deeper than the Great Lakes”.
An online petition demands that Obama, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan uphold the human right to water and stop the water cut-offs.