Sustainable Development Goals: SDG #6 Ensuring Availability
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that were agreed upon by all United Nations (UN) Member States at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 seeks to ensure safe drinking water and sanitation for all people everywhere. It focuses on sustainable management of water resources, wastewater and ecosystems and acknowledges the importance of an enabling environment. In signing the 2030 Agenda, countries committed to engage in a process of follow-up and periodic review, in order to track changes and progress towards goals using global indicators in each sector.
Global status on water and sanitation
According to the United Nations (UN), billions of people still lack access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services and basic handwashing services in the home, something that is of importance, and even more critical now, with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on reporting in 2017, 71 per cent of the world’s population use a safely managed drinking water service, but only 45 per cent of the world’s population use a safely managed sanitation system. This means that approximately 2.2 billion people are left without safe drinking water, and a whopping 785 million without access to basic drinking water. Over 4.2 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation and of those, close to 635 million persons still lack toilets, and still practice open defecation.
According to 2017 data, 3 billion people lacked soap and water at home. In 2016, one in four healthcare facilities around the world lacked basic water services and one in five lacked basic sanitation services. Further, 47 per cent of schools worldwide lacked soap and water.
Also in 2017, research showed that in many areas of Central and South Asia and Northern Africa registered very high levels of high water stress (the ratio of total water drawn to the availability of freshwater resources) at over 70 per cent. These numbers were closely followed by areas in Western and Eastern Asia, with 54 and 46 per cent respectively.
In 2018, of 172 countries, 60 per cent reported very low levels of implementation of integrated water resources management and projected estimates showed that it was unlikely these countries would reach their 2030 goals for clean water and sanitation.
Preliminary data from high- and higher middle income countries in 2019 showed that in about a fourth of these countries, less than half of households had access to safely treated wastewater services. Projections show that these numbers are on the rise, and now with
COVID-19 acting as a new and significant barrier, a change immediate action to improve water, sanitation and hygiene for all is critical to getting back on track with the 2030 targets which we will look at below.
Goal 6 targets
Above all, Goal 6 aims to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. Simultaneously, it also aims to achieve adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, while paying special attention to the needs of women and girls in vulnerable situations worldwide.
Improving access to clean water and sanitation means reducing pollution, eliminating the dumping of waste and minimising the release of hazardous chemicals and other toxic materials, and at least halving the proportion of untreated wastewater. It also means substantially increasing recycling and safely reusing water material globally.
Goal 6 also aims to significantly increase the efficient use of water resources across all sectors and ensure that water withdrawals are sustainable. This includes ensuring that fresh water is supplied in a way that addresses water scarcity and reduces the number of people suffering from water scarcity.
By 2030, this goal aims to implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including transnational or transboundary cooperation as appropriate. This also involves protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes. These aims require the expansion of international cooperation and capacity building at national levels of developing countries in water and sanitation related activities. They also require support and participation of local communities and local-level sanitation and water management services.
Impact of the pandemic
Considering that frequent and proper handwashing is the most basic defence against COVID-19, access to adequate handwashing services or facilities is of utmost importance. However, a quarter of the world’s population lacks access to reliable water supply, which is way off track for Goal 6 targets.
The pandemic has increased awareness about the existence and the consequence of the gaps in areas of access to clean water and sanitation. These gaps have widened to COVID-19, and that could slow down progress in meeting the 2030 targets. Thus, a revision of global targets through a reassessment of current indicators concerning access to clean water and sanitation is absolutely essential if all countries across the globe are to stay on track or get back on track with meeting Goal 6 by 2030.
Join us next week for a discussion of Goal 7!