More than a half billion people were to have fresh water by 2015, according to a goal set at an Earth Summit in 2002. Governments agreed by 2005 to have plans to halve the proportion of people with no access to fresh water by 2015. Nearly 1.2 billion people or one in five of the world population still do not have access to fresh water.
On April 1430 approximately 100 environment ministers will meet in New York to review the goals because countries will have to act fast in order to meet them.
However, according to the head of a U.N. Commission, the world is lagging behind on its plans. "These plans will not be in place in all countries by 2005," said Boerge Brende, Norway's environment minister and chairman of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development that follows up the Johannesburg goals. "It's clear that some countries haven't thought about it so far. It's often the countries that are worst off."
The Sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest problems, he reported, while India and China seem better prepared despite their huge populations. Fresh water would have spin-off benefits in curbing poverty, improving health or even in defusing potential conflicts in areas with shared rivers. Brende said that the water goal meant that 300,000 people needed to gain access to fresh supplies every day.
In addition, the meeting in April will discuss a related goal of improving sanitation for 2.4 billion people.
Brende believes that the goals can still be met, but governments will have to get started immediately.