That is the recommendation of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), which believes countries will fail to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal on environmental sustainability.

The target, one of eight goals set at the turn of the millennium, includes the aim of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

UK-based CIWEM said that in order to meet the target, an additional 1.6bn people need access to improved sanitation by 2015, but if trends continue, the world is likely to miss this by almost 600m people.

Parts of Asia, northern African and Latin American are on track to meet the target, it said, but in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people without access to sanitation has increased from 335m to 440m.

Paul Horton, CIWEM’s director of international development, said: “There is a growing realisation that some of the MDGs will not be met, especially access to clean water and basic sanitation.”

He added: “The whole approach to meeting the target has to change and it is imperative that we see the scale of the challenge ahead.”

A UN report last year on progress towards meeting the MDGs found that there were problems in meeting the target on environmental sustainability, including improved water supplies.

Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon said one of the reasons was the failure of international governments to live up to their financing commitments.

He said: “There is a clear need for political leaders to take urgent and concerted action.”

Currently one sixth of the world’s population get their water from sources contaminated by human and animal faeces and half of all people in developing countries are estimated to have an illness related to sanitation and water quality.

Kate Martin

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