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Earth Today | Celebrating the wins

Report notes progress with data availability as world tracks SDGs

Published:Thursday | March 23, 2023 | 1:01 AM
Progress – UNEP reports water  wins.
Progress – UNEP reports water wins.

THE WORLD may be off track to achieving the environmental dimension of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but all is not lost.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, Measuring Progress: Water-related Ecosystems and the SDGs, while the latest available data and estimates for 92 environment-relevant SDG indicators reveal that there is much that remains to be done to achieve the environmental dimension of the SDGs by 2030, there is some positive news.

“Global data availability increased to 59 per cent in 2022, from 34 per cent in 2018 and 42 per cent in 2020. And although only 38 per cent of the environment-related indicators indicate environmental improvement, this is a solid improvement, compared to only 28 per cent in 2020. Moreover, indicators of some Goals showed strong positive trends, including SDG 9 on infrastructure, SDG 7 on energy, and SDG 6 on freshwater,” it said.

The most improvement in data availability, the report said, came from the Latin America and Caribbean, Northern Africa, and Europe regions.

“This major improvement in data availability results from a sustained investment by countries in their national statistical systems to collect and report data for SDG indicators as part of their sustainable development programmes, supported by capacity development efforts by custodian agencies,” the report added.

“The further development of methodologies that use new data sources also contributes to improved data availability. Many national statistical offices are already experimenting with using big data in the production of official statistics. Currently, the dominant big data types include Earth Observation data, citizen science data and other sensor network data, combined with advanced analytical techniques (e.g., machine learning, geospatial modelling and geostatistical modelling),” it said further.

At the same time, the report flagged the threats to water-related ecosystems, including climate change, excessive pollution and overexploitation, and the need for urgent and sustained interventions.

“Hence the need to reduce deteriorated water quality and water scarcity and avoid water-related conflicts (SDG 16), as well as regulate consumption and production (SDG 12) for future generations. Additionally, given the interlinkages of the water sector with all aspects of national economies, policy coherence is crucial to ensure synergy and avoid trade-offs between and among economical activities,” it said.

Of course, the report acknowledged that ”developing targeted policies to adequately manage water resources is complex and requires cross-institutional cooperation to account for all stakeholders across all levels”.

“For instance, the role of groundwater resources is not often fully recognised due to the complexity and diversity of hydrogeological processes,which hinders its full incorporation in policymaking. In addition, another layer of complexity relates to climate change adaptation and mitigation actions, where complex interactions between energy, land, water and biodiversity need to be considered to improve the management of water resources,” it explained.

Poverty, social inequality and water resources, it said also, are “connected in a vicious cycle” and must be addressed.

“Poverty and social inequality exacerbate poor water quality through the release of wastewater effluents due to unavailability of wastewater collection networks, the disposal of waste in open dumps next to water streams, which pollutes surrounding water resources, and through using basic techniques to extract groundwater, which renders it unclean and unsafe for human use,” it explained.

“The unsafe and unclean sources of water available for use and the unaffordable prices of water from private or informal vendors also add to this cycle. This drives people to use unclean water sources or save on daily water use, which in both scenario simpacts their health, in turn causing educational or employment opportunities losses,” the report added.