What is SDG 6?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

In 2015, world leaders from over 190 member countries, including India, met at the United Nations to adopt a new global agenda for development the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Designed as a roadmap for 2030, the SDGs encompass a universal set of principles, targets and indicators meant to guide UN member states in the framing and implementation of policies. The guiding motivation behind the SDGs are clear: to leave no one behind.

Source: United Nations

Among these goals is SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. SDG6 aims to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” Water and sanitation are at the very core of sustainable development, critical to the survival of people and the planet.

The Core Principles of SDG 6


  • Ensuring that everyone has access to safe drinking water i.e. water that is not contaminated and is affordable.
  • Ensuring that everyone has access to to sanitation facilities, with the aim of reducing open defecation.

Sustainable Management

  • Managing water resources to ensure usability for future generations with emphasis placed on reduction in water pollution.
  • Addressing the issue of water scarcity, by promoting water efficiency, and re-using and recycling of water.Replenishing and restoring water ecosystems, to preserve water sources for the generations to come.

India’s progress towards SDG 6

Efforts towards achieving SDG 6 in India are particularly critical because 63 million people in India still lack access to clean water.Almost 600 million people in India defecate in the open – the highest number in the world.

Source: UNDP India

Efforts of the Indian government in the water and sanitation space have primarily focused on the ‘availability’ aspect of SDG 6 – both for clean water, and also for safe sanitation. Multiple government programs have been rolled out including the Swachh Bharat mission (with emphasis placed on toilet construction) and the National Rural Drinking Water initiative (targeting drinking water supply).

While these initiatives aim to improve the water and sanitation infrastructure in the country, there is a long way to go – access is only one part of the puzzle, and is likely, not sufficient to change behaviour.

Recent research by Development Alternatives (DA) reveals that there are glaring holes in the implementation of SDG 6 in India, particularly in the case of wastewater treatment, water scarcity and water quality. Indiscriminate deepening of aquifers has led to contamination of ground water, per capita water adequacy has been on the decline and existing sewage treatment plants (STPs) are unable to meet the required capacity. Further, the financing costs of these efforts are tremendous. On the sustainable management end, the government has also launched efforts to clean up the river basins, particularly the Ganges. However, recent reports from the National Mission on Clean Ganga (NMCG) show that progress lags far behind intended goals. Clearly, government initiatives alone are not going to help us meet SDG 6.

YWater: Bringing India closer to SDG6

YWater India is an attempt in moving our country closer to the attainment of SDG6, focusing our efforts in youth engagement and advocacy to drive sustainable water and sanitation solutions. We focus on driving behavioural change in water and sanitation practices, bringing the youth of our nation to the forefront of this movement. We hope not only to build awareness and a civic consciousness among the youth, but to also foster policy action among those who will be most affected by water and sanitation issues in the years to come.

To learn more about YWater, check out our website at www.ywater.org. Our next blog post will provide insight on why SDG 6 is critical to the future sustainability of this planet. Stay tuned!


Report of the Secretary-General, “Progress towards the Sustainable DevelopmentGoals “http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=E/2016/75&Lang=E” Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, Sustainable Development Goal 6, “https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6”
United Nations in India, SDG 6: clean water and sanitation, “http://in.one.un.org/page/sustainable-development-goals/sdg-6/”
RIS, India and the Sustainable Development Goals: The Way Forward, http://ris.org.in/pdf/SDGs_Report_Chapter_6.pdf

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