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"Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and a basic human right. And water and sanitation are at the heart of our quest to enable all the world's people, not just a fortunate few, to live in dignity, prosperity and peace."

Kofi A. Annan (Secretary-General United Nations), Human Development Report 2006

At the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in August 2002, the overall Millennium Development Goals (adopted at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000) were reaffirmed and additional targets related specifically to water and sanitation were added under the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. It was recognized that water and sanitation are fundamental to poverty eradication and sustainable development overall.

Water challenges will increase significantly in the coming years. Continuing population growth and rising incomes will lead to greater water consumption as well as more waste. The urban population in developing countries will grow dramatically, generating demand well beyond the capacity of already inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure and services. Unsustainable agricultural as well as growing industrial production is likely to increase water pollution as well as water use. Experts predict that climate change and variability, particularly the foreseen increases in the frequency and severity of extreme events, will worsen water scarcity to crisis levels in many parts of the world. Water scarcity is likely to become a more frequent cause for conflict.

(UNDP 2004: Water Governance for Poverty Reduction Key Issues and the UNDP Response to Millennium Development Goals – Key Issues and the UNDP Response to Millennium Development Goals. NY)

Knowledge quiz

It is currently estimated that one billion people have no access to a reliable water supply, 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation and over half the world's population will live in water-stressed or water-scarce countries by 2025. Against these figures, it is clear that innovations are necessary to address the world's water crises. Reports by organisations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) also highlight the fact that science, technology and innovation are important for development purposes in general and for sustainable development in particular.

The following knowledge quiz demonstrates both the importance of water and sanitation, as well as the investment required in water and research in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It gives an overview of the MDG targets on water and sanitation and the challenges faced. It also explains what is the added value of investment in water and research.

Good luck!

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