A major survey in Kazakhstan found that, despite meeting the UN definition of what constitutes safe water, a large number of people reported suffering from illnesses like hepatitis and gastroenteritis.
A key United Nations Millennium Development Goal is to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. This is seen as crucial to reducing poverty and infant mortality.
But, as the research shows, the MDG definition is too narrow and can be misleading. If the definition is used, it shows that over 90 per cent of people in Kazakhstan have access to safe water and sanitation. But the definition does not take into account the distribution, supply, quality and reliability of the supply. When these factors are considered, the actual number of people with access to safe water drops to less than 30 per cent.
Access to safe water is a serious issue in many parts of the world, which, like Kazakhstan, have experienced recent economic, social or political turmoil.
Sarah O’Hara, Professor of Geography at the University, says: “The accepted international definition of an improved water source focuses primarily on distance to supply and the amount of water that it can provide. A household connection for example would meet the definition of a safe water supply. But our research shows that just because a house in Kazakhstan has a piped water supply, does not mean that the water is safe.”
One of the biggest problems uncovered in the report is the disruption to water supplies. On average more than 70 per cent of respondents said their water supply was routinely interrupted, rising to 97 per cent in certain areas. Interruptions occurred as often as 14 days a month, and lasted for up to 12 hours a time.
This, Professor O’Hara says, is at the heart of the health concerns: “There are a number of problems here. Firstly there are the obvious health problems associated with not being able to flush a toilet or wash your hands. But also significant is the fact that when there is no water flowing through pipes, the lack of pressure allows contaminants to flow in through cracks and faulty joints. It gives bacteria the chance to thrive. We also found that some water pipes were laid in the same trenches as sewer pipes, which can allow cross contamination when the water supply is interrupted.”
The report shows that the health concerns are shared by the people of Kazakhstan. Even in houses with connections to water supplies 53 per cent of people treat the water by boiling it. This goes up to 56 per cent where people have an intermittent supply and have reported gastroenteritis.
Is Kazakhstan unique? Professor O’Hara thinks there is a very strong chance that the rest of former Soviet countries are running similar risks with similar situations.
Encouragingly, the government of Kazakhstan has accepted the results of the survey and is now planning an investment strategy to tackle the issue, using the information.
“We’re obviously very pleased at the response from the Kazakh government, but there are deeper concerns here and we feel the survey shows that the UN definition of what’s considered safe, is too rigid and it’s easy for governments to do the minimum of work to meet this international standard, when in effect they’re ignoring the problem. The UN needs to revisit this issue and look seriously at how it monitors progress.”
Emma Thorne | alfa
How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy