U.N.: Sanitation Goals Harder to Meet

Water and sanitation -- two of the issues currently being discussed by the United Nations' Commission on Sustainable Development -- are closely related to international sustainable development goals, according to a May 13 press release.

Speaking to the press were Kathleen Abdalla, officer-in-charge of the division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Aslam Chaudhry, chief of the Water and Natural Resources Branch of the same division; and water expert, Roberto Lenton.

Abdalla said that water and sanitation benchmarks had been included in the Millennium Development Goals and later reaffirmed as part of the sustainable development agenda. If present trends continued, the goal of halving by 2015 the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water would be met. More remained to be done as far as the sanitation goals were concerned, however. To meet the water goals, safe drinking water needed to be provided for 82 million people annually. To meet the sanitation goal, it was necessary to improve access to sanitation services for 120 million people per year, and the implementation of that goal was a cause of concern.

Significant progress had been achieved in Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, and Egypt, she continued, and innovative solutions were being sought by many countries. Among other things, the commission was discussing ways of getting the private sector involved, leveraging private funds, and increasing development assistance.

Chaudhry recalled that water was central to many other issues before the Commission on Sustainable Development, particularly the problems of agriculture, land, rural development, drought and desertification, and sustainable development in Africa. This year, the commission was assessing progress in the implementation of its 72 decisions that had been adopted on the water and sanitation agenda in 2005.

In addition to the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals, there was also a goal of preparing integrated water resource plans by 2005, he said. Sixty-six countries submitted reports to the commission, describing measures to build institutions and introduce policies and regulation measures to manage water resources.

Lenton said that dollars and capacity were at the heart of many problems.

He added that the main need of most of the world's 2.6 billion people without access to sanitation was simply access to toilets and latrines. Meeting that basic need came first. In the countries with stronger economies, the issue of disposing of wastewater came to the forefront.

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