Water on The Island of Oahu
Science, Law, Culture & Ecojustice to help actualize your water rights
More than 100 years ago and before western colonization on the Island of Oahu, water flowed naturally within the hydrological cycle from mauka to makai (mountains to ocean) and natives managed their natural resources with respect for all living things. With the arrival of western values however, this ancient Hawaiian connection to nature was lost. Watersheds were drilled for their groundwater and ditches were made to redirect natural flows with priority given to sugar plantations focused on economic gain.
Today, all operating sugar plantations have closed on Oahu, but overpopulation and real estate development are increasing at a questionable rate. As more and more of the 607 square foot island is developed, farmers of the previously untouched Koolau Mountain western watershed region are fighting to implement State Water Code laws to keep foreign developers from concreting their natural lands with an expansion of paved roads, hotels and residential communities.
With finite resources and a steadily growing population, The Island of Oahu is a fitting example to explore how water rights can be realized. Since 1973, victories have been won for Hawaiian water rights in the courts of law and in public opinion, slowly improving unsustainable water practices brought on by western civilization and economic priorities.
For those not affected by water practices in Oahu, this knowledge serves as an example of how to approach the fight for water rights in other regions of the globe. Together we can all help actualize international law to realize water as a human right, but we must start with knowledge of the science, culture, ecojustice principles and laws surrounding the subject of water.
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On July 28, 2010 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted to recognize access to clean water and sanitation as a human right under international law. Sovereign law supersedes international law however, therefore we must look to specific regions to better understand how science, laws, culture and ecojustice principles affect water as a human right (UNGA, 2010).