March 7, 2011

Reasonable access to clean water is a fundamental human right and its distribution should not be left solely to private companies seeking profit, a top Vatican official said.

Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told participants at a meeting regarding the future of water supplies around the world that water is not a commercial product but rather a common good that belongs to everyone.

People have a "universal and inalienable right" to access, a right that is so fundamental that "governments cannot leave its management solely in private hands," he said.

Toso made his remarks at an international meeting held near the Vatican, promoted by the Catholic-inspired Italian environmental association Greenaccord.

Toso cited Colombia, Philippines and Ghana as countries where water management "inspired exclusively by private and economic criteria" has failed to produce adequate distribution for the population and where water costs three to six times that of large cities such as New York or London.