Human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation of indigenous peoples: state of affairs and lessons from ancestral cultures

Indigenous peoples, who have endured centuries of colonization, violence and domination, often relegated to live in marginal territories, in harsh conditions, offer us valuable ways to address the global water crisis through their traditional practices, both in terms of the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems and the democratic governance of safe drinking water and sanitation. Today, however, mining, the construction of immense hydroelectric dams, the development of large agricultural and livestock farms, massive land- and water-grabbing processes and the development of large tourism projects in their territories are damaging and contaminating their water sources and putting their livelihoods at risk. Governments have the obligation to guarantee indigenous peoples their rights to self-determination, to free and well-informed consultations and to consent prior to any intervention in their territories: States must put in place the necessary means to ensure that indigenous peoples enjoy their human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, inclusive of an intercultural dialogue that is respectful of their ancestral worldviews, knowledge and practices.