IWA urges action, investments to stem sanitation crisis

Meeting in Vienna, IWA members noted that it was unacceptable that 2.6 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation, that the professional community has the skills and know how to solve the problem today, and called for leaders to give this issue the priority is deserves. In a further effort to influence practice, IWA issued a reference paper based on the work of its Sanitation 21 Task Force, outlining the scale and nature of the crisis...

VIENNA, Austria, Sept. 11, 2008 -- Meeting in Vienna, IWA members noted that it was unacceptable that 2.6 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation, that the professional community has the skills and know how to solve the problem today, and called for leaders to give this issue the priority is deserves. In a further effort to influence practice, IWA issued a reference paper based on the work of its Sanitation 21 Task Force, outlining the scale and nature of the crisis and recommending several steps that should be taken in order to achieve the internationally agreed upon Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"Decision makers should recognize that sanitation is fundamental for people and the environment, and that they need to allocate more resources to address all sanitation needs," the IWA paper reports. "Current policies are not sufficient for meeting the sanitation requirements of poor communities. Sector professionals are willing and able to respond to the sanitation crisis, but require strong and consistent political backing from all levels."

The IWA report notes that approximately 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, and that 450,000 people need to gain access to this basic service every day between now and 2015 in order to meet the MDGs. "On current trends, for example, sub-Saharan Africa will not achieve sanitation targets until the end of the Century," the report explains. The document delineates how meeting the sanitation goals would produce a net gain billions of productive adult and student days, billions of dollars in the value of time saved and deaths avoided, with the result of over $260 billion in economic value realized.

The report also advocates the implementation of integrated sanitation systems as opposed to discrete "fixes" -- combinations of toilets, waste collection and transportation systems, waste treatment and disposal. However, warns the IWA report, such systems will be technically viable only if management requirements are matched by adequate financial capacity.

>> View the full report and other information on IWA's activities in the sanitation areas

The International Water Association's core purpose is to unite water professionals in achieving sustainable water management on a local, national and international level. The Association is a non-profit, self-governing organization comprising over 10,000 members across 130 countries from the scientific, utility, consultant, regulatory, industrial and technology communities. IWA's work covers all fields of the water cycle, from supply, industrial water use and sanitation in both developing and developed countries.

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