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Indigenous Communities: Analyzing their Right to Water under Different International Legal Regimes

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Utrecht University School of Law, 2014.
LCC:Law in general. Comparative and uniform law. Jurisprudence
Indigenous communities around the globe, totalling about 370 million people, are faced with the challenge of protecting their access and customary rights to ancestral lands and water resources. This challenge has several causes. Climate change, increased pollution, contamination and depletion of freshwater and groundwater resources worldwide can be identified as causes. In addition, the demand for water will become greater as consumption patterns lead to greater investment in the water-intensive industry and agriculture such as those resulting from the growing demand for biofuels, as well as demographic-related production and consumption patterns that lead to greater demand for fresh water. These developments create challenges for overall water consumption by the general population. With water already being scarce in some places and becoming scarcer in the future, protection of access to water for vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples has been becoming more relevant. This study takes indigenous peoples as the subject for investigating the human right to water. It reaches several conclusions, including that the human right to water applies to indigenous peoples, but more as individuals than as a group, and that the human right to water is just one part of a larger bundle of water rights which differ in content, legal bindingness and complaint mechanisms. This makes it difficult for this minority and marginalized community to actually assert these rights and shows that for effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, it is necessary to create a comprehensive and consistent system of rights.
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