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ADB calls for more investments to address water security and resilience in Asia and Pacific

European Union 2016 / Photographer: Fiona GoodallWater security and resilience in Asia and Pacific region and how to attract investments in the sector were the central topics of the Asia Water Forum 2022 of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which took place through a virtual conference in August.

The Asia Water Forum 2022 took place again after a challenging period over the last couple of years in which the world confronted a global pandemic and food security crisis. Service delivery and investments in the water sector coping with this new reality coincide with efforts to adapt to climate change, rapid urbanization and, at the same time, resource scarcity.

The conference worked around four focus areas:

  • water as a sustainable resource, which means looking at systemic approaches to decision making such as resource allocation, water sector policy and regulation and transboundary cooperation;
  • universal water supply and sanitation services, including new methods for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.1 and 6.2 targets for universal and equitable access;
  • productive water in agriculture and the economy, which explored various ways in which sustainable water management can improve economic outcomes.
  • climate change and water related risks.

According to the ADB’s Asia Water Development outlook, 22 out of 49 developing member countries in Asia and the Pacific region, remain water insecure. Although it can be seen a gradual improvement in water security in some parts of the region “we are not there yet”, said ADB Managing Director General Woochong Um. “More needs to be done to serve the underserved”, he stressed.

This represents more than 2 billion people or about 50% of the Asia Pacific region population. “There are currently 500 million people without access to basic water supplies - explained Um -, and over 1.1 billion people without access to proper sanitation”. In this context demand for food and energy is expected to rise in line with population growth and economic development.

As the agriculture consumes 75% of fresh water and irrigation is the main contributor to groundwater depletion, in recent years the region witnessed increasingly frequent and severe water related disasters including floods and droughts while the sea level rise is contributing to saltwater intrusion of groundwater supplies as well. According to Um these challenges “can not be solved following a business as usual approach”.

That is why ADB approach to building a resilient and water secure Asia and Pacific in support of strategy 2030 and the SDGs is based on the Mainstreaming Water Resilience in Asia and the Pacific Guidance Note's six pillars:

  • demand for resilient water investments;
  • a community approach;
  • strengthened staff capacity;
  • knowledge, innovation, and partnerships;
  • finance for water resilience;
  • and digitalization.

It's been estimated that countries in Asia and the Pacific needs to invest an average of 1 to 2% of the entire annual GDP to achieve SDG 6 far beyond what the public sector in development assistance can provide. Public resources can be better used to de-risk and leverage more private sector investments in this space.

At the same time, private sector innovation and know how can also help to drive significant efficiencies and development and delivery of water infrastructure and series services. New technologies such as Earth Observation Systems, and artificial intelligence, can offer huge opportunities to plan manage and monitor water resources more easily and effectively, but nature based solutions can also provide opportunities for flood protection, natural water and filtration and wastewater management and treatment.

Through this multifacetedI approach ADB “is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme povert”.

Documents:

Asia Water Development Outlook 2020

Mainstreaming Water Resilience in Asia and the Pacific Guidance Note