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Study Reveals Reasons for the Success of MDG Target 7C-Water

Although the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) made efforts between 2000 and 2015 to produce mixed and disputable results, there was at least one clear-cut MDG success, that is, safe drinking water.

MDG Target 7C aimed to reduce by 50%, by 2015, the ratio of the world’s population with no sustainable access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water. Here, the drinking water target was allegedly accomplished in 2010. Previously, such a global target on drinking water has hardly been accomplished.

This study, which was performed in collaboration with the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS), The University of Tokyo, found the reason for the accomplishment of this outstanding achievement when others failed. It also further investigated the factors of success and whether these factors could be simulated to achieve other socioeconomic goals. The results have been published in Nature Sustainability.

Achieving MDG Target 7C-Water was definitely a success. However, this achievement is not cut-and-dry. We found that comparatively modest goals along with rapid urbanization, especially in China, and rural development in India, were major enablers of the success.

Taikan Oki, Study Senior Author, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

Global targets for accessible drinking water vary from 100% analysis to much lower standards. The scientists reviewed earlier reports and targets and found a substantial difference in the definitions of safe drinking water. A few highlighted lack of contamination, whereas others dealt with factors such as the distance to water collection or amount of available water. This difference could have led to various result explanations.

They also discovered that the MDG period coincided with extensive rural-to-urban migration in China, in addition to rural and urban developments in India. These were crucial for extensive drinking water analysis, as China and India comprise of about one-third of the world’s population. China’s urban population increased more than twice during the period.

The researchers, using a mathematical equation relating water access with GDP, also discovered that commercial development was critical in the greater coverage.

Currently, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have undertaken the responsibilities to widen the MDGs and to strive to achieve those that are still outstanding.

The baton is now passed to SDG Target 6.1, which aims to secure safe and affordable drinking water for everyone on Earth by 2030. That is highly ambitious, and it's more specific and demanding than the predecessor MDG. Based on our findings, irrespective of the outcome, this high goal will stimulate motivation and investment. As economic development and poverty reduction continue, this is a good thing.

Taikan Oki, Study Senior Author, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

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