Safe drinking water for all

- Goal: to guarantee access to safe drinking water, first of all for the most disadvantaged.

- It’s a good idea, but it’ll be brought up in the fall, long after the heat waves.

Ecolo defended a timely motion on Tuesday for a resolution before the Walloon parliament. It concerns requesting the 262 Walloon communities to promote access to safe drinking water in public areas. In other words, to install spigots or drinking fountains in the cities and villages where anyone could come and get a drink, or to get water to use for basic needs.

“The proposal’s mission is mainly social,” emphasizes Deputy Isabelle Meerhaerghe, “when the temperatures rise, these water sources could be vital for the homeless, or people who are isolated in their homes and those who are looking for refreshment.”

Studies show that only one of two homeless people in our cities has access to safe drinking water. This despite resolution 64/292 ratified in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly and voted for by Belgium, that considers access to safe water to be a fundamental right.

The idea also extends to providing service to the general population – to pedestrians or tourists. Why not return public fountains to their former role as a place of activity and an exchange between neighbors?

“In my city of Charleroi,” testifies the official, “the city had just taken advantage of the roadwork already underway to install two water fountains, one in the Ville haute area and one at La Digue square. My motion for a resolution is already one year old. We have discussed it, and here is a real life example of it with a low price tag.”

Brussels is ahead of Wallonia. “Brussels already has about twenty safe drinking water sources.” Explains Isabelle Meerhaeghe. “Their location is shown on a map in every subway station, a useful piece of information for everybody.”

One of the goals in the texts presented by Ecolo is to make sure the public is aware of the locations of the water sources. A water fountain no one knows about is useless. A survey has to be made of all available water sources, and clear labeling using a pictogram indicating the quality of the water there.

“The next step” adds Meerhaeghe, “will be to extend the network of fountains and spigots and to determine where they would be most useful. Then, we’ll have to evaluate how the regional authorities could concretely help the communities and their potential partners invest in such construction.”

The Ecolo project is simple, charitable, and sensible. What, however, do you think will happen in the Walloon parliament’s health commission? There will be hairsplitting from the PS and CDH’s benches, the other two majority parties.

Shouldn’t this be the environment commission’s responsibility? Shouldn’t we first hear from the cities and communities as well as the Public Centre for Social Welfare (CPAS) and the Walloon water association?

The text has not been rejected, but everyone will meet again come fall to discuss the substance. This will occur by the end of September. By then, the summer heat will be but a hazy memory.

ERIC DEFFET

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