This is the title of an informative Al Jazeera article (and video interview) on the UN report that they are 5 years ahead of schedule for achieving one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Namely, “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.”
The issue with the UN’s assessment is that it all depends on how you measure success. Is the presence of a pump a measure of access to drinking water? What if the pump hasn’t worked for years? Does it still count?
The article and video interview present a stark view of how little progress the world has made on providing the most basic rights of access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation (which does not have to follow the current model of using copious amounts of drinkable water to flush away waste; but that’s a whole other topic which we’ll discuss in a future post). As a species, we’ve invented things like the iPad, but we can’t figure out how to make sure that no-one is literally living in and effectively eating their own waste?
I’m not sure I can really wrap my head around how pathetic that is.
I think the first step to getting past this unacceptable state is becoming informed about the world today. And I’m not talking about watching the nightly news, or reading the big national papers. I’m talking about being truly informed. Finding sources of real-world information that are as minimally filtered through corporate interests as possible. (I say minimally because, let’s face it, there’s no way to get around them entirely.)
Speaking of information, let’s go back to the Al Jazeera article and video, here are two great quotes from the interview:
“What is being measured is basically the type of improved technology that people are supposed to be accessing like a hand-pump or a tap in the house. What’s not being measured is whether it works, the quality, how far people have to walk to get to that water.”
- Patrick Moriarty, the International Water and Sanitation Centre
“Our biggest issue [in Pakistan] is treating wastewater and unfortunately we are not doing it except for a little in Islamabad and Karachi. Both industrial and domestic wastewaters are going to our freshwater and groundwater sources on the farms outside the city.”
- Muhammad Jahangir, the founder of Better Tomorrow
Give the article a read, even if you can’t spare the 20 or so minutes to watch the video, and let me know what you think.
Please note: The issue being discussed here is one target of the Ensure Environmental Sustainability MDG. The other seven MDGs are:
- Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
- Achieve Universal Primary Education
- Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
- Reduce Child Mortality
- Improve Maternal Health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
- Develop a Global Partnership for Development
On a related note today, March 22, is World Water Day. A day, not for celebration, but for becoming more informed about the world’s water issues. In that spirit, head on over to Circle of Blue for in-depth articles and engaging infographics on the global water crisis.