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Source: Asia Development Bank

Distinguished speakers and guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to address you today at this launch event for the Asian Water Development Outlook 2020—Advancing Water Security in Asia and the Pacific.

Water security is an especially pressing topic in Asia and the Pacific and one that has been even more at the forefront of the development agenda this year as our region experienced the twin impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and water-related disasters.

We have witnessed COVID-19 ravaging the health and economies of Asia and the Pacific, with more than 14.3 million cases identified in the region and more than 200,000 deaths. Cases are still rising in many locations. Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene are the primary line of defense against the spread of COVID-19, as well as water-borne and other diseases.

At the same time, unrestrained water causes severe damage to economies and human welfare. For example, here in the Philippines, we have seen a tangible reminder of our vulnerability to water-related disasters during the second half of this year. Although about 20 typhoons on average pass through the country every year, Typhoon Vamco (local name Ulysses), which hit the Philippines on 11 November, was particularly severe. The storm affected more than 4.2 million people and left at least 73 people dead and more than 125,000 houses damaged. The images on TV news of flooded streets and homes were heartbreaking to watch, and many of our own staff at ADB were badly affected. We also witnessed that many evacuation centers were so crowded, without any room for social distancing, exacerbating the public health risk during the pandemic.

To improve the region’s water security, we have 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.

In this latter respect, AWDO provides an essential reference for authorities as they plan their policy reform and investment planning on water security. AWDO also enhances the quality of ADB’s financial support by making it more targeted and timely.

This year’s edition uses updated methodologies and in-depth analysis of water financing and governance developed in partnership with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As our analysis shows, many of ADB’s developing members are showing significant progress on water security, along the five key dimensions of:

1. Rural household water security, including water and sanitation;

2. Economic water security, which is the assurance of adequate water to sustainably satisfy growth;

3. Urban water security, including water and sanitation and flood management;

4. Environmental water security, including catchment and aquatic health and environmental governance; and

5.  Water-related disaster security—resilience against droughts, floods, and storms.

But there is still a long way to go as they still face challenges due to uncontrolled urbanization and lagging rural development, vulnerability to weather and climate events, and environmental pressures.  

In the Asia and Pacific region, some 1.5 billion people living in rural areas and 600 million in urban areas still lack adequate water supply and sanitation. Of the 49 regional ADB members, 27 face serious water constraints on economic development, and 18 are yet to sufficiently provide adequate security against water-related disasters.

In the presentations to follow today, you will hear more detail on these findings and the different dimensions of water security. You will also learn about case studies in places such as India and Thailand where there has been tangible progress with policies linked to the application of AWDO.

As ADB’s developing members increasingly elevate water security in their development agendas, I sincerely hope that this new edition of AWDO will continue to help them formulate effective national and subnational water policies.

I am grateful to the International WaterCentre, the International Water Management Institute, the Korean Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology, OECD, and the Government of Australia for their collaboration in preparing this year’s edition.

We are all stakeholders in water security, and I look forward to continuing to work together for a more water-secure and resilient Asia and the Pacific Region.

MIL OSI Global Banks