Region needs to invest for water security: ADB
Huge saving seen in healthcare costs
Asia-Pacific needs US$59 billion for water supply and $71 billion for improved sanitation. Every dollar invested in water and sanitation is likely to save $5-$46 in healthcare costs and increase economic productivity, according to the Asian Development Bank.
In its report on the "Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 - Measuring Water Security in Asia and the Pacific", released on Wednesday ahead of World Water Day, the bank noted that if some Asian developing countries face a water crisis in the future, it will not be because of physical scarcity of water but because of inadequate or inappropriate water governance.
Major changes in water governance are needed in nearly all the Asian developing countries.
"Public investment, market-based approaches and support from the private sector can reduce pollution and finance the restoration of healthy rivers. Every $1 invested in a river restoration programme can return more than $4 in benefits."
About 90 per cent of the people affected by water-related disasters live in Asia. South Asia and the Pacific face the highest risk for water-related disasters and have the lowest resilience. The cost of flood disasters in the region has increased over time, reaching estimated damages of over $61 billion in 2011.
"Countries should make further efforts to save lives and economic losses from water-related disasters by investing in modern flood forecasting, effective early warning systems that reach local communities at 'the last mile' and by sharing information across national boundaries."
Of the 49 countries under assessment, eight suffer from hazardous levels of water security, while 29 have begun to engage in the essential tasks to improve water security. Ten countries are shown to have established the infrastructure and management systems for water security and two countries are considered to have effective systems of water resources management. No country in the region was found to have reached the highest model level of water security.
In Asia-Pacific, more than 60 per cent of households live without safe, piped water supply and improved sanitation. South Asia and the Pacific Islands are hot spots with the lowest coverage. Inequity in access is highest in South Asia.
"The fastest increase in water demand now comes from industry and cities," it said.
In Asia-Pacific, agriculture accounts for 79 per cent of annual average water withdrawals and demand for food and animal feed crops are predicted to grow by 70-100 per cent over 50 years.
South Asia, the poorest and most populous subregion, has relatively low agricultural water productivity.
"Countries should modernise irrigation services, actively manage water demand and consumption and implement measures to reduce competition among users," it said.
On the environmental side, wastewater in the region is often released into rivers, lakes and groundwater untreated or only partially treated.
As little as 22 per cent of wastewater discharges are treated in South Asia, making it a hot spot where the growth of liveable cities will be delayed without urgent action. The subregion has the lowest environmental water security.
Countries should adopt corporate-style governance to improve urban water and wastewater services.