Asian Development Bank Conference Addresses Water, Sanitation Concerns

Water shortages that could reduce food production and worsen economic conditions in Asia are worsening, Arjun Thapan, an infrastructure advisor with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said on Tuesday at the ADB’s “Water: Crisis and Choices” conference in Manila, Philippines, Agence France-Presse reports.

“The water footprint in our towns and cities, in our irrigation systems, our energy production systems and in industry in general, is extravagant,” Thapan said. “It needs to shrink and Asia needs to become acutely conscious of the scarcity value of its accessible freshwater, and the imperative of efficiency in managing it” (10/12).

According to an ADB press release: “Large infrastructure investments will be needed to address the region’s current water problems, with at least $8 billion required just to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2015 targets for safe drinking water and sanitation” (10/11). Most of those resources will need to come from the private sector, the bank said, Reuters reports (Mogato, 10/12).

To address the water issues, ADB “said it has developed a draft plan for 2011-2020 that focuses on making water use more efficient to reduce demand, with the help of a partnership between the private sector and governments,” the Associated Press reports. The proposal – which includes suggestions for “more efficient irrigation, reduced leakage in water systems and better wastewater treatment technologies” – will be discussed the five-day conference (Cerojano, 10/12). Under the plan, the ADB would maintain its current annual investment on water projects of $2 billion-$2.4 billion, Thapan said, Reuters writes (10/12).

“About 600 representatives from water constituencies in government, think-tanks, non-profits, and industry from 53 countries” are attending the conference, which runs through October 15, the press release notes. The conference is focused on exploring better water management and irrigation techniques, as well as fair pricing issues. “The conference will also examine prospects for increased private sector partnerships and investment to provide the expertise and resources needed to develop and fund water solutions,” according to the release (10/11).

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