Hungary: Local Authority Disconnects Public Water Supplies in High Temperatures, Blames Roma for 'Misuse'

06 August 2013

Budapest, 6 August, 2013: The European Roma Rights Centre is calling on the Council of Ozd to immediately reconnect the public water supply in the town. On 3 August 2013, the council disconnected 27 pumps, which provided water to the town. Up to 500 families can no longer easily access safe clean drinking water. A further 62 taps have been severely limited by authorities, with the water pressure is so low that it takes several minutes to fill a 10-litre bottle. Roma and non-Roma are affected by the decision, as many people living in the area are too poor to have running water in their homes.

The Council made the original decision at the end of June, and did not inform the community - only putting the information online. The limitations started two weeks ago, during the height of the Hungarian summer when temperatures can reach uo to 40C (104F). According to media reports, the mayor said that the council could no longer afford the 50,000-EUR annual water bill from all of the pumps in the town, and specifically targeted Roma for ‘misusing’ the water supply. He did not provide any evidence to support this accusation.

No alternatives were provided to the individuals, who rely on the pumps for their supply of water. Local activists and supporters have been providing some drinking water to the community, but there is no water for people to wash themselves or their clothes, and this is not a sustainable solution. Currently there are just two taps which are operating, and both are situated more than 1.5 kilometres from Roma settlements.

“This is not just about the right to water, it is about the health and safety of Roma families who are forced to spend their days going back and forth to fetch water in extremely high temperatures. The Council is fully aware that many families do not have their own supply of running water. This is Europe in 2013 and this should not be happening,” said Dezideriu Gergely, Executive Director, European Roma Rights Centre.

The ERRC is deeply concerned by the Council’s actions, and is in touch with the local authorities to urge them to urgently reconnect the water. Many residents of this area are completely dependent on roadside water pumps to access safe drinking water. Cutting off the water supply at this time of year is dangerous and irresponsible.

Hungarian authorities have a responsibility under international human rights standards to ensure that individuals can access safe and clean drinking water. The ERRC is calling on Hungarian authorities to stop disconnecting the public water supply in areas where the public is dependent on public taps and roadside pumps.  
For further information, contact:
Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre


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