WASHINGTON, October 18 (RIA Novosti) - Organizers for a town hall meeting on water rights in Detroit hope to see as many as 2,000 participants defending their access to affordable water services, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) told RIA Novosti.
"We realize that there are eyes all over the world that are interested in what's going on with this water issue," media contact for MWRO, Stephen Boyle said on Friday, adding that some 2,000 people are expected to join the event. "Detroit has been suffering with a water rights problem for over a decade," he added.
Affordability of water is the main issue for MWRO and UN Human Rights at the town hall meeting, according to Boyle.
"It's not so much that people are not willing to pay their bills, it's a matter of can we afford to pay the bills," he stated.
The water shutoffs so far this year, January 1 through September 30, in Detroit encompass 27,148 commercial and residential properties, public affairs spokesman for Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Gregory Eno told RIA Novosti on Friday.
As a response to the situation, the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will hold the "Detroit Fact-Finding Public Town Hall Meeting" on Sunday.
The town hall will host internationally and locally known panelists, including UN Special Rapporteurs Leilani Farha, right to adequate housing, and Catarina de Albuquerque, human right to water and sanitation, who will hear testimony offered by crisis victims from Michigan residents on water, sanitation, and housing issues.
"One issue is getting the UN to recognize an appeal," stated Boyle. "The United States doesn't necessary play into the United Nations very friendly." MWRO believes water should be affordable and not a commodity that is being sold, indicated Boyle. Boyle also said the judge in the Detroit bankruptcy treated water as a commodity instead of something that is required.
According to the UN, the Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor and promote the rights to adequate housing and to water and sanitation worldwide.
A declining population, increasing unemployment, and an estimated $18 Billion in debt have contributed to Detroit filing for bankruptcy in July 2013. The bankruptcy hearing is slated to resume on October 20.