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Progress towards MDG water target underplays the arsenic problem

Bangladesh’ 2011 progress report towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) underplays the arsenic problem. The proportion of the population using improved drinking water sources is said to have reached 86%. However, the report takes the most conservative estimate of 20 million people exposed to arsenic contaminated drinking water exceeding the Bangladesh Drinking Water Standard (BDWS). In contrast, in 2001, the British Geological Survey estimated that 35 million were exposed to levels above the BDWS or 57 million above the stricter World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline. In 2000, the WHO warned that this could go up to 77 million. Is the drop down to 20 million suggested by the recent MDG report justified? We have serious doubts. Read more…

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Are We Really There Yet? The MDGs and Extreme Poverty

According to the United Nations a significant milestone has been reached for the Millennium Development Goals – the halving of the proportion of people living in extreme poverty. Alex Surace and Crelis Rammelt investigate this claim by exploring the methodology used to calculate extreme poverty. Read more…

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The value of interdisciplinary research

Academic research is often justified to governments and the general public on the basis that it contributes to the solution of major problems and helps create a better life for all. But most of the academic research at Australian universities is disciplinary based, while the biggest problems faced by human society fall into the broad categories of environmental destruction, resource depletion, poverty, war, disease, injustice, inequity and exploitation, none of which fits into a single academic discipline. These are inherently complex, ‘wicked’ problems that not only require inputs from several disciplines, but also require new forms of knowledge and research that have not been classified as disciplines. Read more…