NEW DELHI (AlertNet) – Three out of four countries in Asia and the Pacific are facing a serious lack of water, and some are in danger of a crisis unless steps are taken to improve water management, a report by the Asian Development Bank and the Asia-Pacific Water Forum has said.
The Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 , the first study of the degree of water security of every country in the region, found that 37 out of 49 nations do not have enough water, the worst being India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu.
“South Asia and parts of Central and West Asia are faring the worst with rivers under immense strain, while many Pacific islands suffer from a lack of access to safe piped water and decent sanitation and are highly vulnerable to increasingly severe water disasters,” said an ADB statement.
“By contrast East Asia, which has the highest frequency of hazards in the region, is relatively better off due to higher levels of investment in disaster defences, but urban water security remains poor in many cities and towns.”
Water security has become an increasing concern across the world in recent years.
More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many Asia-Pacific nations face serious water shortages.
In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams.
The study examined water security in countries at five different levels, including access to clean drinking water and sanitation, water availability for industry and agriculture, and water supply systems in urban areas.
“Much progress has been made in terms of providing drinking water, but when we look at the number of households that have piped water, it is much less,” said Wouter T. Lincklaen, lead water resources specialist at the ADB.
Only 35 percent of the region’s population have a secure water supply. Even worse, only 23 percent of South Asians and 21 percent of those living in the Pacific have piped water, he said.
ADB experts cited China as a good example of improved water management, in which the government not only promised to double annual investment in the water sector to $608 billion by 2020, but also set performance targets for industry, irrigation and water quality.
ADB experts said they hoped the report — designed to take stock of progress made by the region’s nations since a 2007 summit in Beppu, Japan — would jolt governments into action.
“We do believe that people will pay attention and that they will start to manage water security in a more comprehensive manner,” Lincklaen said.`