15 Sep 2023

Venue: Palais des Nations | Room XXV & Online

Organization: Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, Germany, Spain, Geneva Environment Network

In the framework of the 54th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC54), taking place in Geneva from 11 September to 13 October 2023, the Permanent Missions of Germany and Spain, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and the Geneva Environment Network convened a side event to reflect on the thematic report presented by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, taking a gender perspective, “Fulfilling the human rights of those living in poverty and restoring the health of aquatic ecosystems: two converging challenges”.

About this Session

Ensuring drinking water to the 2 billion people without guaranteed access to it, most of whom severely impoverished, is only possible if progress is made in restoring the good condition of the aquatic ecosystems that supply their water. According to the recently presented report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation “Fulfilling the Human Rights of Those Living in Poverty and Restoring the Health of Aquatic Ecosystems: Two Converging Challenges” (A/HRC/54/32), there is an alarming degradation of aquatic ecosystems, which has a significant impact on the realization of human rights, especially on the right to water.

These aquatic ecosystem challenges have far-reaching consequences for human rights, particularly the right to drinking water and sanitation for Indigenous Peoples, rural communities, women and girls and other groups in vulnerable situations. Human activities that cause depletion and pollution of an aquatic ecosystem (which are often toxic) affect drinking water and are disproportionately located in the territories of Indigenous Peoples, communities of African descent, and others.

The report argues for transcending to an ecosystems and integrated approach, that is in tune with the “rights-of-nature”. These perspectives connect with the leadership of women in communities and impoverished communities, where they are usually the water sources-carers. Women as stewards and conveyors of water, play a vital role in safeguarding water sources and passing down traditional wisdom to the younger generations.

This side event at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) gathered experts from different fields to discuss the intersectionality of the degradation of aquatic ecosystems, the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and the possible solutions to address the degradation of aquatic ecosystems worldwide and contribute to the realization of the human right to water. The event also aimed to underscore the interconnectedness of safeguarding water ecosystems and upholding the rights and well-being concerns of all, with a commitment to amplifying their voices and perspectives in shaping decision-making processes, from a gender-inclusive perspective.

Environment @ HRC54

Environmental issues are present in various agenda items of each session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and their side events. Toxics and human rights are the usual main environmental theme of the Council’s September sessions, with the Special Rapporteur’s annual report to the HRC. The right to water and sanitation and the rights of indigenous peoples are also environment-related issues presented by their respective United Nations Special Procedures, also in interactive dialogues with States, international organizations, human rights national institutions, and NGOs.

To develop more synergies among stakeholders and a better outreach on the environmental agenda of the 54th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC54), including the activities taking place in parallel to the Council’s session, the Geneva Environment Network has compiled this regularly-updated page that highlights the environmental-related activities of this session.


By order of intervention.

H.E. Amb. Katharina Stasch

Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations in Geneva

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo

UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation

Kate Mackintosh

Executive Director, Promise Institute for Human Rights Europe | Deputy Co-chair of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide in 2020-2021

Musonda Mumba

Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

David Boyd

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

H.E. Amb. Aurora Díaz-Rato Revuelta

Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations in Geneva

Diana Rizzolio

Coordinator, UNEP Geneva Environment Network | Moderator


Opening remarks

H.E. Amb. Katharina Stasch | Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations in Geneva

  • Yesterday, in the Interactive Dialogue, we heard powerful messages of how the human rights to drinking water and sanitation and the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment go hand in hand – and how securing these rights entails our obligation to protect our aquatic ecosystems.
  • This does not only refer to technical development  – it does not stop at water purification or wastewater treatment. And it does not stop at borders.
  • Tackling climate change and water scarcity from a human rights perspective requires more than that, it needs inclusive democratic water governance based on transparency, public participation, international cooperation and accountability.  It is our joint obligation to enforce these rights for everyone.
  • In Germany, we have adopted a National Water Strategy to support our national implementation of SDG 6. With this strategy, we aim to protect natural water reserves, take precautionary measures to prevent water scarcity, avoid conflicts of use and improve the status of water bodies and water quality.
  • Germany is also one of the biggest donors in the water sector and committed to the issue of water in numerous international initiatives, such as UN Water and the Global Water Partnership. Here in Geneva – together with Spain – we run the biannual resolution on the human rights to water and sanitation.
  • We will continue to aim at comprehensive change. This also means to reduce discrimination against women. Women and girls are key to accelerating progress on the global water targets and their meaningful participation is key to finding sustainable solutions for all.

Overview of the Thematic Focus

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo | UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation

  • We are facing a paradoxical water crisis on the planet, the Blue Planet, as 2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.
  • It does not represent a crisis of scarcity but one of governance. The main issue is that the large majority of these two billion people who do not have access to water safe drinking are extremely impoverished people living next to rivers or aquifers that are polluted with toxins or overexploited by abusive or unsustainable economic activities. The root of this crisis lies in the unsustainability of the current development model, based on the paradigm of the domination of nature.
  • It is necessary to move towards a new model of environmental regeneration. We have destroyed so much that conservation is no longer enough, we need to restore. What is necessary is a new model based on the paradigm of sustainability while promoting water governance based on a human rights approach.
  • Wetlands, rivers and lakes are the backbone of life on islands and continents just as the aquifers are the water lungs of nature. They feed the base flows of these ecosystems and constitute a strategic natural reserve to water flows.
  • Aquatic ecosystems have provided the natural supply network for human settlements for ten thousand of years. This was sufficient to satisfy the global coverage for water. This network is not just important for the past, it continues to be vital for the present: especially for the rural communities and for indigenous peoples, who depend directly on them. Today, however, exploitation, land grabbing, and contamination not only break the sustainability of nature and ecosystems but also violate human rights.
  • Aquatic ecosystem contamination by heavy metals is one of the issues that impressed me the most during my last official visit to Peru. I received  200 very well organized delegations, most of them presided by women who received me with papers of their children’s blood analysis, and teachers of the schools from over 60 schools that are all contaminated with heavy metals. The people want to know what the United Nations can do for them.  Their desperation comes from the fact that they have been inadvertently poisoning their children because they were not informed of the risks contained in the water.
  • What the United Nations can do is to make visible this problem and push for countries to open the debate on this issue. Although achieving consensus can be hard,  it is by pushing for the recognition of these issues, by arguing and presenting data and realities that it can eventually be achieved.
  • In the presentation of my report during the interactive dialogue that took place on 14 September 2023, I stressed the need for opening discussions at the international level to explore the inclusion of these actions to address this massive and systematic pollution among the crimes defined as crimes against humanity. Furthermore, it insists that is necessary to approve and regulate the crime of ecocide.
  • Another problem that must be urgently addressed is biological pollution – we forget sometimes 1.8 million people every year die from diarrhea, and most of them are children. Again, the unsustainable growth of irrigation with overexploitation of aquifers and toxic pollution from pesticides, an everpresent silent contamination that pollutes drinking water.
  • This unsustainable growth of these problems finally ruins aquifers that are the strategic reserves for droughts in the perspective of climate change.  Although dams can help with this problem the main water resource remains under us in the aquifers.
  • The privatization of water also favors both the bankruptcy of sustainability, of ecosystems and the human rights of the most impoverished,  because the environment and impoverished people cannot compete in the markets.
  • Climate change contributes to breaking the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems altering rainfall patterns with disproportionate impacts on those living in poverty and particularly on women who bear the burden of fetching water and taking care of those who get sick from drinking contaminated water. Therfore, women are the most interested and committed to this challenge are women, who are in the front line of this problem.
  • Recovering the good ecological status and the quality of the aquatic ecosystem becomes a central axis of the necessary adaptation strategies and policies to minimize the impacts of climate change mainly on the ones who live in conditions of most vulnerability.
  • The recognition of the human right to a healthy environment, in particular to aquatic ecosystems in good condition, converges with the fulfillment of the basic right of safe drinking water and sanitation.
  • This convergence is in tune with the ancestral vision of the indigenous worldviews that today promotes the recognition of legal personality to rivers and aquatic ecosystems essential for their survival. We need a discussion on these opposite views – anthropocentric and ecocentric – and to eventually find a convergence.

Panel Presentations

Kate Mackintosh | Executive Director, Promise Institute for Human Rights Europe | Deputy Co-chair of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide in 2020-2021

We complement the Special Rapporteur’s report, especially its recommendations for discussions to be initiated at the international level to explore the use of international criminal law to address the problems related to water access and sanitation.

International criminal law reading of the issues identified by the report and its contributions:

We have to look at whether the actions that the SR identifies in his report could already be considered crimes against humanity, especially the toxic poisoning from the extraction of heavy metal from mining activities. Although the SR concludes these do not represent crimes against humanity, we should not completely rule this out. Looking at the examples cited by SR, toxic contamination from certain mining operations are characterized by systematic contamination beyond accidental riskssevere and massive damage to the health of millions of people; awareness of the progressive poisoning of the population by those responsible (even if there is no will or intention to cause it);  the population not perceiving the poisoning which is . cumulative, irreversible has particularly severe conditions for children. 

There must be some circumstances in which these activities rise to the level of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population which is the definition of a crime against humanity. An attack, in the sense of a crime against humanity, is a multiple commission of acts pursuant to a state or organizational policy, which is applicable to some of the situations identified in the SR’s report. The acts themselves are not articulated in the crime against humanity, there is nothing about poisoning of aquifers and water sources but there is an open-ended category in crimes against humanity of other inhumane acts. These inhumane acts have to intentionally cause great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health, and here we have the question of  intention.

Under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) intention to cause a consequence is present if the perpetrator knows that the results are virtually certain results of the acts. It seems to me that there must be some circumstances that do already fit the definition of a crime against humanity but certainly, it is not guaranteed. We should not undermine the important argument that international criminal law does not immediately offer itself as a remedy for even extreme environmental destruction and the resulting human suffering.

Inclusion under the ecocide definition proposed by the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide in 2020-2021

While the SR testing concluded the crimes could not be included under such a category, we need to reflect on whether they might already be. Some of the cases identified in the SR’s report would meet our human-centric and eco-centric definition of ecocide. It does take into account massive harm to humans, but it does not require harm to be proved in order for the crime of ecocide to be successfully prosecuted. Ecocide is defined as

[…] unlawful or wantpn acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts[…] damage is severe when it evolves very serious adverse changes disruption or harm to any element of the environment, including grave impacts on human life […] damage is widespread when it extends beyond a limited geographic area crosses State boundaries or is suffered by an entire ecosystem or species or many human beings” , and there is a link between water source contamination and ecosystem destruction which would be exactly the kind of thing that would be captured by the crime of ecocide.

Contributions of international criminal law in addressing the gender dimension of this human rights crisis

International criminal law can support finding solutions to this problem and hold perpetrators accountable. The expressive value of international criminal law that should not be underestimated is that international crimes are those that the global community has decided are the worst acts, and they are completely beyond the pale and wherever they occur their crimes against all of us. Drawing attention to this as an international crime can shift the narrative and more concretely it can have an impact directly on behavior: a deterrent function, especially with regards to corporate leaders who would be very sensitive to the possibility of being accused.

Criminal law itself is interesting and it takes the burden from the victim. So, we have seen many creative legal actions that are going on across the world on behalf of the victims in domestic courts. Suing oil companies or the extractive industry more broadly we see appeals to the human rights bodies that are building important and powerful jurisprudence, but they rest on the victim to bring the case, so the victims have to find resources energy and support in order to take these cases to court substantial financial resources.  International criminal law approach takes that responsibility from the victim and we all together decide that this is not permitted, that this is beyond the pale and we are going to stop it. It is crucial that any prosecutions of these or other environmental crimes take a human rights approach, they foreground the disparate impact on vulnerable and marginalized groups which the SR will turn notes in his report and including the heavier burden borne by women and girls. Prosecutions also need to be highlighted, this disparate impact is the actual situation. In cases that are prosecuted should cases illuminate those stories that show the impact on women and girls and of course other marginalized groups, racialized groups, indigenous communities, and so on this can help not only build awareness but will build a protective body of jurors prudence and start to build a path, then towards environmental justice through international criminal law.

Musonda Mumba | Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

  • We need to be angry as our planetary dynamics signal that we are on the edge. We are almost tipping, and sometimes it is hard to know whether we need a crisis to make us realize.
  • As the Secretary General of the oldest and most experienced multilateral body – the Convention on Wetlands –  I am well aware of the importance of water for every aspect of daily life. Wetland systems are both above and below, representing a source of sustainment for civilizations for ages and still grouping people around the world as 172 contracting parties to the convention discuss the diversity and beauty of these ecosystems.
  • Wetlands are very intersectional. In the context of the UNDP project in Junín, Peru we had the chance to see gold mining and that it beautifully exemplified by the areal view of the Amazon: from the above, we see a beautiful tree canopy but below toxics poisoning is happening. We are all exposed to invisible toxic pollution.
  • This crisis requires an urgent solution. It imposes a disproportionate burden on women, and young children not only during the fetching of resources but also for caregivers, who if get sick are unlikely to have someone to care for them in turn. When extreme events take place, most of the time it is women who organize to rebuild and reconstruct. When we amplify governance to water bodies and to river systems, we have to really be aware of the need for gender-responsive policies because of the intersectionality of water and SDG6 is fundamental for all of us.
  • The Special Rapporteur’s report highlights the need for understanding the elements of coverage and connectivity. A lot of our systems are very disaggregated.
  • It is important to stress the role of pragmatism in our policies, as well as the importance of dialogue, where language can represent a barrier. The indigenous languages and knowledge systems are not even translatable into other languages, as the word “restore” does not exist in some languages. In the context of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which is coming to an end in 2030, less than seven years, we must first reflect on how to conserve before talking about restoring because we do not know when we enter a 2.5-degree world what we will recover, and the effect and impact will be borne mainly by women, children and young people.
  • The Ramsar convention is not only focused on actual sites, it takes into account the protection of assets also from toxic poisoning. We must highlight that when we poison our beautiful sites, we are poisoning ourselves and the sentient beings that depend on them. When birds migrate, they carry mercury with them which is the reason why we have mercury in the Arctic. Ecosystems are so interconnected that the sentient beings that we share with the planet are also poisoned, so we need to rethink how the crisis happens and the gender responsiveness of our policymaking. We need to go beyond talk and really take actions because we are on the edge and dangerously so. When these crises impact us, they impact everyone regardless of economic status. Each one of us on every corner of the planet is affected.

David Boyd | UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Water is the lifeblood of human beings and all life on earth. Our bodies are 70% water, aquatic ecosystems purify polluted water, shield coastlines, control erosion, and store carbon. People depend on clean water for drinking, cooking, cleaning sanitation, growing food, fishing and recreation. Yet we live in a global water crisis: more than 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water. Water shortages affect more than 3 billion people and more than 4 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation.

Three-quarters of all natural disasters occurred in the last 20 years were related to 80 percent of wastewater discharged into the environment untreated contaminating surfaces. Waterborne diseases kill nearly 2 million people every year with the greatest burden falling on young children.

Wildlife populations that depend on freshwater habitats have crashed by 80 percent since 1970 and climate change exacerbates pollution scarcity and disasters.

The special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation has done outstanding work in defining these rights as well as related State obligations. My report to the Human Right Council in 2021 46/28  took a broader approach: water pollution, water scarcity, water-related disasters and damage to freshwater ecosystems have major impacts on a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, water, sanitation, food, adequate standard of living, development, cultural rights and the rights of children. These impacts fall disproportionately upon those who may be vulnerable or marginalized because of their age, gender, poverty, indigeneity, disabilities, and cultural or ethnic backgrounds.

Although at risk, these communities have the potential to contribute to water solutions when empowered to do so. For example, women are key actors in improving the way water is used, managed, and allocated. Safe water and healthy aquatic ecosystems are key substantive elements of the right to a healthy environment, as recognized by regional tribunals, national laws and national jurisprudence.

When it comes to State obligations, States should apply a rights-based approach to all aspects of allocating, managing, conserving, protecting, and restoring water. My report outlines seven key steps that states should take to fulfill their human rights obligations.

  1. Prepare a state of the water assessment that includes information on water quality sources of pollution, water supply, water users and impacts on human rights, human health and ecosystems;
  2. Conduct a legal mapping initiative to ensure that human rights are incorporated in water and wastewater laws regulations and policies while ensuring that human rights are prioritized in water allocation decisions;
  3. Develop or revise water-related plans to incorporate a rights-based approach;
  4. Implement water-related plants and enforce water-related laws regulations and standards;
  5. Evaluate progress and where necessary strengthen actions to ensure that human rights are fulfilled to additional actions.
  6. Building human financial and institutional capacity; and
  7. Informing and engaging the public particularly women and girls, youth and other vulnerable and marginalized groups.

People continue to be murdered, criminalized, and intimidated because of their courageous efforts to protect clean water, states must do more to protect environmental human rights defenders and businesses are major contributors to water pollution overuse and the degradation of freshwater ecosystems. Businesses must do much more to respect human rights by reducing the pollution of water, using water more efficiently, and avoiding activities that damage freshwater ecosystems.

My report also offers examples of good practices of regional agreements for transboundary cooperation such as the Boundary Waters treaty between Canada and the United States; the Guarani aquifers agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay; the agreement between Botswana, Namibia and South Africa for managing the Stampede Terence boundary aquifer. Nationally good practices include constitutional protection for water as in Croatia, Egypt, Slovenia and Uruguay; strong laws such as the National Water Act in South Africa and policies that empower women such as Nepal’s Rural Water Supply policy and innovative approaches to conserving water and recycling wastewater as in Singapore. 

Given the devastating impacts of the global water crisis on people’s lives, health and human rights, remedial actions must be taken rapidly and systematically with priority placed on improving conditions for the most vulnerable. Fulfilling the rights to water, sanitation and a healthy environment is essential for achieving sustainable development goals. Water pollution, water scarcity and water-related disasters are preventable problems: the solutions are known and include rights-based water and wastewater laws, standards and policies. capacity building programs, improving technologies, and enhanced accountability mechanisms. Investments in sustainable water governance and infrastructure must be scaled up substantially but the benefits are potentially immense, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates four to five dollars in benefits for every dollar invested in water, making these investments an obligation to fulfill the human rights of present and future generations.

A human rights-based perspective can serve as a catalyst for accelerated action to achieve safe and sufficient water and empower those working to protect and conserve water, guiding all of our actions toward a healthy just and sustainable future.


Sonja Köppel | Secretary, UN Water Convention: Making peace with our rivers became an important topic of discussion following the UN Water Conference held in March 2023 and the adoption by the General Assembly of a follow-up resolution (A/77/L.106) on 1 September. We need to bring up one additional aspect, which on the one hand further complicates the already difficult issue, but also brings additional opportunities. More than 60% of all freshwaters are shared by two or more countries and this further complicates the situation because countries need to address the topic of water pollution jointly. Indeed, the 10 most polluted rivers in the world are transboundary.

The topic of transboundary agreements needs to be considered in water management, positively contributing also to protecting and restoring ecosystems can also bring together countries across borders. In the contexts of Western Africa, in southeast Europe and in South America the need for restoring ecosystems and for addressing those problems jointly has brought together countries and has brought peace even beyond water. We can try to address the problems of water pollution jointly, we can bring additional benefits not only for health but also for regional integration and for peace and security.

Integrated ecosystems management are one of the main obligations of the water convention and we can currently see a growing momentum with five countries joining the convention this year: Nigeria, Iraq, Namibia, Panama and  Gambia bringing it to 52 and more than 20 other are in the signing process. How do you see the way forward for addressing the mentioned problems of water pollution, particularly in the difficult settings of transboundary basins?

Kate MacKintosch: The transboundary issue is not a problem for international criminal law, it acutally offers some potential jurisdictional solutions. If we think about the Rome Statute, in a case in which pollution is occurring in one country that is not a member of the International Criminal Court, the ICC would have no jurisdiction over it. This may move also into another jurisdiction in the territory of a country that is a member of the ICC, which would then mean that the international criminal court could have jurisdiction over the matter so not an obstacle may even provide some jurisdictional opportunities in terms of international criminal law.

The gender angle is a fundamental element of International Criminal Law and legal proceedings. In Prosecuting something like the poisoning either as a crime against humanity or as ecocide, the particular cases should highlight the story of women, the case charge should show the victimization, the burden felt by women as a group. This will surface this particular aspect of ecocide, of crimes against humanity. If we look at the trajectory of sexual violence in conflict for example it can really build institutional protection awareness and a protective body of jurisprudence which highlights that gender impact.

Musonda Mumba: Taking the case of Lake Chad, a transboundary water body that has shrunk by 95% both because of climate change and obstruction, such events bear impacts on indigenous peoples, and women, and also have implications on human security. We have seen how this insurgency has surged because a system is almost near collapse. So, these complex problems manifest at the transboundary and do no respect of borders, and the impact is really mostly fed by women and children. There is a fantastic book by Julia Watson called “Lo – TEK” and it deals with indigenous, traditional technologies and solutions to many of our problems, and these have been mostly designed by women.

Pedro ARROJO-AGUDO: The upcoming report I will present in New York in the month of October will be on Water for Peace and it refers to the work of the UN Water Convention on transboundary waters.

The Water Framework Directive of the European Commission aims to recover the good ecological status of the rivers and aquatic ecosystems. From a pragmatic point of view, it is good to recover the natural engineering that moves the water cycle. We have money for dealing with polluted rivers, but the impoverished people have rivers directly, so the impact is direct so what is something good for you for us is a vital element for everybody. We must change our approach and embrace our responsibilities.

Closing Remarks

H.E. Amb. Aurora Díaz-Rato Revuelta | Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations in Geneva 

  • Our objective has been to enhance the conversation around the last report presented by the Rapporteur to the Council, and to do so from a gender perspective. After listening to all of you, I believe we have succeeded.  
  • This event brings together two of the priorities that guide my country’s foreign policy on human rights: the recognition and protection of the human rights to water and sanitation, and the commitment to gender equality as a transformative agenda that must be at the centre of multilateral responses to address the challenges we face.  
  • We know that access to water and sanitation saves lives. But aquatic ecosystems are badly damaged.  
  • Yesterday, the SR on the human rights water and sanitation urged States to react to the fact that 2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. This is not something inevitable but the result of decisions on the governance and management of aquatic ecosystems, which violate the rights of the poorest and the most vulnerable.
  • The intersectional approach of your report is essential to address the world’s water crisis. Reversing this situation means putting people and the planet at the centre. This is the international framework we have agreed to in the 2030 Agenda.
  • The complementarity of your work with other mandate-holders of this Council, such as Special Rapporteur on Environment is commendable.
  • Let me come back to the importance of wetlands. One billion people depend on wetlands for their livelihood. Wetlands provide precious ecosystem services for water and water security, food and livelihoods, biodiversity, human health, climate change. They are essential for the good functioning of the planet and for our own survival. Their conservation is a responsibility of societies as a whole. This is expressed in the Strategic Plan for Wetlands in Spain to 2030.
  • Therefore, recognizing the role of women in the conservation and protection of wetlands is crucial to empower their communities and end poverty. By nurturing wetlands, communities are empowered and we can achieve progress towards ending poverty. The work being done by the Ramsar Convention is a benchmark.
  • In short, mainstreaming gender is key to ensuring democratic and inclusive water governance. Let us act on your recommendations with a view to strengthening the ecosystem resilience and make peace with our rivers.  



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