4 Dec 2009

Rights can be hard to deliver

Seven months ago, I noted a decision of South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal affirming a right of 42 liters of water per day.* The winners in that decision thought the number too low (they wanted 50lcd, which the South Gauteng High Court had awarded previously) and appealed to the Constitutional Court, which then reversed the 42lcd ruling:
The Court recognized that the City is, in fact, working toward the “progressive realisation” of the achievement of access to sufficient water, but that it will take time for everyone to have adequate access. Also, the Court found that quantifying a sufficient amount of water is not an appropriate matter for a court to handle. The exact quantity should be decided on by the government, the Court argued, which has already developed a protocol accounting for 6 kiloliters per month.**
So the plantiffs are back to square one: "Adequate" water will depend on "available" and "affordable" water.

Bottom Line The right to receive has limits; be wary of expecting all you want.
* Section 27 of the Constitution says that “everyone has the right to have access to sufficient water” and that “the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights."
** 25 liters per person per day for a household of 8.