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Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals for Water and Sanitation

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Esteban CastroORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a book chapter that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, SDG 6 focuses on access to clean water and sanitation for all. Data are not available on the status in meeting these goals that are specific to the basin of the ParanĂ¡ River, but the national data generated for the three countries that primarily share the basin (i.e. Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay) can give an indication of the capacity to meet these goals. A critical review of the data collected to date by the SDG Global Database indicates that, although Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay officially report that they are very close to meeting the SGD 6 targets for providing universal access to safe drinking water and eliminating open defecation, in reality, these countries may fail to achieve these targets. These nations, particularly Argentina and Brazil, report very high levels of service coverage in urban areas, but these data fail to reflect real coverage levels, as shanty towns and favelas are often not included or are not adequately reported. In addition, the water delivered is not always safe for human consumption, which leaves people with no other option than using water from unsafe sources or expensive bottled water. Moreover, these countries face significant challenges in addressing the target to provide universal access to facilities for sanitation and hygiene, particularly among the poorer segments of the population living in rural areas or in urban slums. The situation is particularly acute for Afro-American and Indigenous communities. In meeting the goals to improve water quality (i.e. SGD target 6.3), Brazil appears to be an active participant in programs to monitor water quality and report these data to the Global Database. However, Argentina and Paraguay need to be more active in participating in this process. All three countries are lagging behind in treating domestic and industrial wastewater before discharge into aquatic ecosystems. The level of participation in integrated water resource management programs in all three countries is equal to or less than 50%. However, because of the lack of incentives among stakeholders to participate in these programs, there are significant barriers to expanding these types of water management programs. Although at the country-level, water stress is not a significant threat, large areas of the nations within the basin are affected by medium-to-severe water stress, and a substantial share of the urban population is located in water-stressed regions, particularly in Brazil. Although the three countries appear to have the basic institutions, regulations and organizational mechanisms to meet the SGD 6 targets, they face multiple obstacles for making significant progress. In particular, a lack of commitment to tackle long-standing structural inequalities is a major problem that may prevent these countries from meeting SGD 6; a situation that has been emphasised in recent reports by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The annual meetings of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development convened under the auspices of ECLAC may provide the impetus for Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay to participate in the process of meeting the objectives of SGD 6.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Metcalfe CD, Castro JE

Editor(s): Metcalfe, CD; Menone, M; Collins, P; Tundisi, J

Series Editor(s): Smakhtin, V

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The ParanĂ¡ River Basin: Protecting Ecosystem Services Through Effective Water Management

Year: 2020

Pages: 161-180

Online publication date: 10/06/2020

Acceptance date: 15/11/2019

Series Title: The Earthscan Series on Major River Basins of the World

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: London, UK


DOI: 10.4324/9780429317729

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780429317729