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Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Case File: MDG 7- Environmental Sustainability

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 14, 2010

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Target 7A: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources

Target 7B: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
o Proportion of land area covered by forest
o CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
o Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
o Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
o Proportion of total water resources used
o Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
o Proportion of species threatened with extinction

Target 7C: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (for more information see the entry on water supply)
o Proportion of population with sustainable access to an improved water source, urban and rural
o Proportion of urban population with access to improved sanitation

Target 7D: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers
o Proportion of urban population living in slums


“Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease world-wide and improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities. The word ‘sanitation’ also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal.” World Health Organisation

Fig. 1: Population using improved drinking water sources (%) 2008. Source: WHO Global Health Observatory

Fig. 2: Population using improved sanitation facilities (%) 2008. Source: WHO Global Health Observatory

Integrated Satellite Applications

    Sustainable provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces:

EO can be used in urban planning to help the siting of waste disposal and treatment sites away from where they could constitute a hazard to both surface and ground water sources. Beyond the surface mapping capabilities that applications like Google Maps and Google Earth place at our disposal, there are other satellites that characterize the sub-surface features of water sources. This has been demonstrated by the NSA/DLR Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission. These capabilities are useful in determining the flow of pollutants below the surface.

EO has been used to map population density and the availability and access of these populations to various amenities. The combination of these population estimates with data on the location of sanitation amenities would help to guide the provision and location of additional sanitation facilities where they are needed. This also applies to the planning and routing of garbage collection and wastewater disposal.

    Sustainable access to safe drinking water:

Hydrogeology studies groundwater sources. Earth observation (EO) is used in locating, quantifying and defining the depth from the surface of groundwater sources. Groundwater is the source of 20% of global freshwater. There are also surface water sources of fresh water. EO assesses the geographical distribution, extent, temperature and chemical (including salinity) composition, and proliferation of flora in surface water. Water flows in both directions between groundwater and surface water. This makes pollution a shared challenge between both water sources. EO can detect polluted surface water through indirectly assessing the proliferation of flora (e.g. algal bloom) which can occur following the deposition of waste in surface water.

EO is also a vital resource in the estimation of potential sources of safe drinking water. It estimates, defines the characteristics, and provides visual details on potential options in making decisions on obtaining water. Through using the Geo-navigation capabilities of mobile phones, water sources in communities can be mapped and made available on an easily accessible/downloadable map. This can be combined with laboratory testing of each of these water points to certify their potability. This information layer of safe drinking water sources can then be equally mapped and shared to prevent transmission of water borne diseases like cholera.

    Health Promotion:

The use of the mobile phone as a health promotion tool has been explored especially on behavioral change campaigns in sexual health. This is also a tool that can be harnessed for promoting better sanitary practices among communities. This is also another advantage of the growing penetration and availability of mobile phone services in rural communities in the developing world.
Similarly another useful means of increasing awareness on sanitary practices within communities is the ability to take photographs, tag the photographs with information and geographical coordinates (through geo-navigation satellites like the GPS), and upload this onto the internet directly from a mobile phone. This can be used in surveys to assess the availability of sanitation facilities within populations. It can also be used to document the occurrence of bad sanitary practices and aid the understanding of the frequency, nature and possible causes of poor sanitation.


Integrated satellite applications should be further explored as a way of supporting efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The availability of mapping, communication, and geo-navigation capabilities on mobile phones provides an opportunistic synergy that must be exploited. This would broaden the scope of data collection, and improve access to necessary information on safe water and basic sanitation towards MDG 7 and beyond 2015

Download the UNited Nations 2010 Millennium Development Goal Report here


2 Responses to “Case File: MDG 7- Environmental Sustainability”

  1. […] View original post here: Case File: MDG 7- Environmental Sustainability « i initiative […]

  2. diskon said


    […]Case File: MDG 7- Environmental Sustainability « i initiative[…]…

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