ADB, experts seek solutions to Asia water crisis

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2010 01:30 PM | Updated as of Oct 13 2010 08:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Around 600 representatives from government, think-tanks, non-profit groups, and the business sector from 53 countries are in Manila to discuss solutions to Asia’s water crisis.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting the October 11-15 conference that is being held at the institution’s headquarters.

Speakers at the event include Margaret Catley-Carlson, patron of the Global Water Partnership; Paul Reiter, executive director of the International Water Association; Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, chairman of the Council for Energy, Environment, and Water in India.

Conference participants will exchange views on the scale and dimensions of the water crisis, examine the application of current and emerging solutions, and determine new directions for sustainable water management in Asia, the ADB said in a press statement.

Growing populations, rapid urbanization, and competing demand for water from agriculture, energy, industry, and urban areas have left water stocks in many countries in a critical state, according to the institution.

Economic powerhouses, the People’s Republic of China and India, are seeing an alarming drop in available per capita water supplies. The onset of climate change, with increasing instances of extreme weather events, is already impacting Asia’s freshwater resources, the ADB added.

“Asia’s water world has gone past its tipping point. The challenge now is to urgently halt, if not reverse, the decline in freshwater availability,” said Arjun Thapan, ADB special senior advisor and convenor of the conference. “Asia needs to aggressively adopt measures that dramatically improve water use efficiencies and safeguard the region’s food and energy security.”

Around 80% of Asia’s water is used to irrigate crops, but much of it is used inefficiently, while many of the region’s most water-stressed countries lose large volumes of treated water through leakage in urban water supply systems, the ADB said.

It is estimated that the region loses as much as 29 billion cubic meters of treated water a year, conservatively valued at $9 billion.

Large infrastructure investments will be needed to address the region’s current water problems, with at least $8 billion required just to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2015 targets for safe drinking water and sanitation, according to the bank.

Unless service delivery is radically revamped with efficiency at its core, the challenge will remain unmet, it added.

The ADB said conference will examine how to design and implement better demand management solutions by minimizing the water draw, and recycling, and reusing wastewater.

It will also look at new approaches for water use in irrigation to improve productivity, measures needed to strengthen water governance, and pricing policies that can make the cost of supplying water fair and financially sustainable.

The conference will likewise examine prospects for increased private sector partnerships and investment to provide the expertise and resources needed to develop and fund water solutions.