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2.1 billion still don't have access to clean drinking water

New Delhi : Stating that nearly 2.1 billion people still do not have access to clean and readily available drinking water and that up to 4.3 billion are without access to safe sanitation, the United Nations World Water Development Report 2019 (WWDR) has underlined that fulfilling the human rights to safe drinking water & sanitation for all can also significantly contribute to achievement of the broad set of goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Launched just ahead of the World Water Day on March 22, the report found that by the year 2050, 45 per cent of global gross domestic product and 40 per cent of global grain production will be threatened by environmental damage and lack of water resources.

WWDR is the UN-Water flagship report on water, giving an overall picture of the state, use and management of the world’s freshwater resources, and aims to provide decision-makers with tools to formulate and implement sustainable water policies. It is coordinated by UNESCO.

This year's report, aptyly titled 'Leaving No One Behind' explores the symptoms of exclusion and investigates ways to overcome inequalities.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right” and in 2015 the human right to sanitation was explicitly recognized as a distinct right.

These rights oblige States to work towards achieving universal access to water and sanitation for all, without discrimination, while prioritizing those most in need. Five years later, Sustainable Development Goal-6 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to guarantee sustainable management of, and access to, water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Yet, despite significant progress over the past 15 years, this goal is unreachable for much of the world’s population.

In 2015, three in 10 people (2.1 billion) did not have access to safe drinking water and 4.5 billion people, or six in 10, had no safely managed sanitation facilities. The world is still off track in achieving this important goal.

"Based on the latest data, this report’s findings clearly illustrate the need to make substantial progress towards delivering on the 2030 Agenda promise of reaching the most vulnerable. The stakes are high: nearly a third of the global population do not use safely managed drinking water services and only two fifths have access to safely managed sanitation services. The intensification of environmental degradation, climate change, population growth and rapid urbanisation — among other factors — also pose considerable challenges to water security. Furthermore, in an increasingly globalised world, the impact of water-related decisions cross borders and affect everyone", said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in her foreward.

UNESCO noted that people who are poor or marginalized are also more likely to have limited access to proper water and sanitation. The report also points out that half of the world's population with inadequate access to safe drinking water lives in Africa and that only 24 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa has access to safe drinking water.

Significant discrepancies in access exist even within countries, notably between the rich and the poor. In urban areas, the disadvantaged housed in makeshift accommodations without running water often pay 10 to 20 times more than their neighbours in wealthier neighbourhoods for water of similar or lesser quality purchased from water vendors or tanker trucks.

The right to water, the report’s authors explain, cannot be separated from other human rights. In fact, those who are marginalized or discriminated against because of their gender, age, socio-economic status, or because of their ethnic, religious or linguistic identity, are also more likely to have limited access to proper water and sanitation.

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