Environment & Poverty Times
07 2012 Water supply in Asia in the future
Asian Water Development Outlook 2011, a preview
By Wouter Lincklaen Arriens
The forthcoming Asian Water Development Outlook 2011 will, for the first time, provide a comprehensive quantitative and analytical view of the current state of water security in the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Targeted to ministers of finance and plan- ning, the document will provide guidelines for investment with better governance to increase water security in the years to come.
The Outlook, preceded by the inaugural edition in 2007, was commissioned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF), in ad- vance of the second Asia-Pacific Water Sum- mit in February 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Five key dimensions of water security Ten of Asia’s leading knowledge centres have joined the collaborative team effort to produce the Outlook, with input from advisers in all five sub-regions. In 2009 this team released their guiding vision for water security. ‘Societies can enjoy water security when they successfully manage their water resources and services to: • satisfy household water and sanitation needs in all communities;
• support productive economies in agricul- ture and industry;
• develop vibrant, liveable cities and towns; • restore healthy rivers and ecosystems; and • build resilient communities that can adapt to change.’
These five dimensions listed above depend on better governance. With better gover- nance come better prospects of prosperity and lower poverty, greener growth, and resil- ience to the unprecedented transformations unfolding in the region, including climate variability and change.
The kind of governance needed to guide in- vestments, however, is not much in evidence in the region. The Outlook aims to inspire finance and planning leaders. The economic and social rationale for pursuing water se- curity is strong and concerns everyone from households and communities, through busi- ness sectors and cities, to river basins and increasingly integrated sub-regions. Water se- curity is vital for food and energy security, and for more efficient industry and agriculture.
A preview of findings and recommendations Findings and validations have been col- lected from this first step in quantifying the region’s water security levels. Three key findings and recommendations are previewed here. They were presented to the Water Crisis and Choices Conference at ADB Headquarters in October 2010.
Pervasive inequity holds back house- hold water security Official figures are not telling the whole story of increased access to water supply and sanitation services as part of the Millennium Development Goals. Where improvements are achieved, they are often not provided equitably. Urban and upper classes are con- necting to services at a much higher rate than rural and poor households. As a result, programmes that aim, but fail, to deliver drinking water and sanitation facilities to poor households can actually exacerbate the social injustice that still characterizes many cities and villages. There are also doubts about the sustainability of the services on offer and their real impact on households’ social development. For example, if poor sanitation is not addressed, it cancels out
many of the benefits from access to a clean, readily available water supply.
The social and economic returns on in- vestments in water supply and sanitation services are huge and compelling. At house- hold level, every US$ 1 earns up to US$ 46 in benefits to a poor family. For local and national economies, the savings from health care costs and gains from productiv- ity, investment and competition are well documented. Without strategic governance to boost investments, increase social capital and human resources, and ensure connectiv- ity in ‘the last mile’, the crisis of inequitable and unsustainable services will deteriorate. Leaders already have good, proven examples from within the region which show what can be achieved with the right mix and level of investments, and smart governance.
The poor state of many rivers threatens economic prosperity Poor river health is a legacy of more than a century of development practices, which have failed to protect the integrity of natural and hu- man systems in the region’s river basins. Water pollution affects the economies, livelihoods, and health of people in unprecedented ways. Research shows that 80 per cent of the region’s rivers are polluted or otherwise compromised by unsustainable growth. Economic develop- ment, urbanization and climate change will exacerbate the challenges facing river-basin management in the coming decade.
Most countries in the region have already adopted policies and legislation to foster integrated water resources management (IWRM) in river basins. Choices must now be made, supported by investment and better governance, to use IWRM processes in river basins to deliver balanced economic, social, and environmental results. To reduce pollu- tion, nothing short of a ‘wastewater revolu- tion’ will produce the necessary results. This
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