The right to water and the right to sanitation have been the object of increasing attention in recent years in India. This is extremely welcome in the sense that it confirms the increasing importance that access to drinking water and sanitation have been given over the past few decades at the policy and political level by highlighting that this is done out of the duty that the state owes to rights holders. The rights discourse has the potential to be emancipatory, is based on universal entitlements and should ensure stronger accountability of the duty holder. This potential exists but does not seem to be unfolding in the context of the rights to water and sanitation that were not formally recognised until a couple of decades ago and whose recognition has come at a time when the policy framework has sought to move away from the traditional model of rights at the international and national levels. The two rights are thus formally well recognised but their realisation is marred by significant contradictions, such as the understanding of rights holders as beneficiaries, the imposition of duties in the guise of rights or the shift from provision to access.

About the speaker:
Dr Philippe Cullet is Professor of International and Environmental Law at SOAS University of London and a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR). His main areas of research are environmental law, natural resources, and socio-economic rights. His current work focuses on water and sanitation law and policy. His last book is Sanitation Law and Policy in India – An Introduction to Basic Instruments (OUP, 2015 – co-edited with L. Bhullar) and the second edition of Water Law in India – An Introduction to Legal Instruments (OUP, co-edited with S. Koonan) will be published in mid-2017. In 2015-2016, he was a member of the Government of India, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation’s Committee preparing the Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016 and the Model Groundwater (Sustainable Management) Act, 2016.