ABSTRACT

One major reason for studying indigenous environmental ethics in the context of heavy metal and metalloid pollution of water is that both running and abandoned mines, which are potential sources of heavy metal and metalloid contamination, are located in remote regions and are near or within tribal-inhabited areas. Mining operations contaminate water and decimate aquatic flora and fauna, which have both livelihood and cultural-religious significance for these communities. Indigenous perceptions of water attach cultural and spiritual values to water in addition to its economic utility, while the Western view considers water merely as a good for consumption. However, these perceptions are now receiving more attention in countries like Australia, which are shifting from a solely resource-oriented governance of water to incorporate a more inclusive understanding of the values, knowledge, and priorities of the indigenous Australians into its water governance frameworks. Similarly, First Nation worldviews are now given increasing recognition in Canada as well. Case studies of mercury pollution of rivers in Canada revealed its devastating impact on First Nation communities and highlighted the need to take into account indigenous worldviews to formulate a more comprehensive management plan. Another important aspect is women’s worldview of water, which has implications in integrated water resources management (IWRM). This is illustrated by the feeling of love for water shown by the Anishinaabe women in Canada. Indigenous perceptions of water in Ghana and Chile are also discussed.