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UN sanitation goal can be reached 15 years sooner than predicted

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Tuesday, 04 November 2008 00:00

New SEI report paints a more optimistic picture than the UN’s own assessment of the MDG sanitation targets.

The UN currently predicts that the improved sanitation target of the Millennium Development Goals will not be met until 2034, well past the target year of 2015. However, using global sanitation data for all available years from 1990-2006, researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute have published a report that shows a much more optimistic scenario is possible.
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- A huge missed oportunity
The current UN definition of improved sanitation does not include sustainability criteria, such as safe discharge. The new report Pathways to Sustainable Sanitation from the Ecological Sanitation Research Programme at Stockholm Environment Institute presents a wide variety of sustainable sanitation options that address the whole of the sanitation cycle.

- Sanitation without sustainability would be a huge missed opportunity’, says Arno Rosemarin, lead author of the new report.

- Our research reveals that drivers for sustainable sanitation include affordability, provision of dignity and the potential for human waste to replace expensive fertilizers.

The report also provides a critique in that the UN has not yet introduced the concept of sustainability into the MDG programme in general and in particular into the sanitation sector which is highly dysfunctional and suffering from limited political leadership at both the local and global levels.

A vision document for policymakers, researchers and practitioners
The report is based on the latest and most comprehensive data and paints a more optimistic picture than the UN’s own assessment of the situation. It is a product arising from the work of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance which was initiated prior to the International Year of Sanitation in 2008 in an attempt to inject sustainable development ideas into the sanitation sector.

It functions as a vision document for those policymakers, researchers and practitioners that are striving towards fundamental reform and improvements within the sanitation sector in both rural and urban populations in all countries of the world. It reviews the global progress being made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on sanitation.

A literature review is presented on sanitation provision including human health impacts and the estimated costs and benefits of achieving the MDG target.

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