Economies of Asia and the Pacific must put water security at the top of their agenda to recover from the fallout from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and adapt to climate change, according to a new flagship report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The Asian Water Development Outlook 2020 describes the status in the region of water security, which measures the availability of safe and affordable water supply, sanitation for all, improved livelihoods, and healthy ecosystems, with reduced water-related diseases and floods.
“The need for water security is even more urgent due to the COVID-19 pandemic because access to water, sanitation, and hygiene offers the primary line of defense against the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. Far too many people across Asia and the Pacific continue to suffer from limited access to these vital services,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. “The new AWDO edition serves as a tangible and reliable knowledge resource for ADB’s developing members as they address the multifaceted challenges of water security.”
Despite achievements in Asia and the Pacific over the last few decades, 1.5 billion people living in rural areas and 600 million in urban areas still lack adequate water supply and sanitation. Of the 49 ADB regional members, 27 face serious water constraints on economic development, and 18 are yet to sufficiently protect their inhabitants against water-related disasters.
The report uses updated methodologies and in-depth analysis of water financing and governance developed in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The report stresses that it is imperative that countries drastically increase their investment in water, sanitation, and other water-related infrastructure and services by convening all public, private, and innovative financing to achieve quality growth and the Sustainable Development Goals. Financing is also needed to enable and sustain a virtuous system of good governance, which requires efficient water-related organizations with sufficient capacity and financial resources to enable them to provide coherent policies, monitor and evaluate progress, and take action when needed, all in interaction with the stakeholders in a transparent way.
Key recommendations in the report include:
- Put water at the center of sustainable rural development by promoting water-effective irrigation agriculture, community-based water and sanitation services, and locally resilient disaster risk reduction such as the combination of community protection and farmland flood retention. This will enable a good economic circle of locally affordable investment, income generation, proper management and operation, and an enhanced level of welfare for the people.
- Achieve urban water security by investing in water, sanitation, and disaster risk reduction infrastructure services not only in cities but also in slums and peripheral areas, while following a gender-based approach.
- Provide a healthy environment by drastically reducing pollution, stimulating a circular economy, increasing land protection, and embracing nature-based approaches.
- Increase the resilience of water systems to avoid water-related disasters and to be prepared for climate and other global changes. Turn recent lessons of disasters into better practices of tomorrow by rebuilding better.
To improve the region’s water security, ADB has programmed more than $6 billion in financial and technical assistance between 2020 and 2022 to support safe water supply, sanitation, and wastewater measures; and more than $2 billion for flood risk management in the same time period—together with tailored knowledge services that promote innovation and forge partnerships.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.