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An appeals court in Botswana has ruled that the Kalahari Bushmen have the right to access well water in their ancestral lands located in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The victory came after an eight year legal battle and is an important step in further establishing access to water as a universal human right protected by law.

The Botswana Court of Appeals granted the Bushman people access to an existing well and permission to excavate new ones, overturning a previous decision that had denied the Bushmen people access to water and drilling rights on their ancestral land.

The Associated Press reports: “The government has argued that their presence in the reserve is not compatible with preserving wildlife, though new wells have been drilled for wildlife and luxury tourist lodges have been built in the disputed territory. Botswana’s government also approved a $3 billion diamond mine at one of the Bushmen communities.”

CUPE has long argued that access to clean water is a universal human right. On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.” This Botswana courts referred to this important resolution in their ruling.