Asia and the Pacific must greatly expand their efforts to address water security and resilience needs, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Managing Director General Woochong Um told the opening of the Asia Water Forum (AWF) 2022.
“Since the last Asia Water Forum held in 2018, our challenges have compounded,” Mr. Um said. “The world has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic; we are now facing a food security crisis; and the impacts of climate change—importantly those felt through water—are becoming increasingly apparent. These realities have underscored the need to quadruple our efforts to address water security and resilience needs.”
Demand for food and energy is continuing to rise in line with population growth and economic development. In Asia and the Pacific, 500 million people lack access to a basic water supply and 1.14 billion people lack access to sanitation. In recent years, the region has experienced increasing frequency and severity of water-related disasters, including floods and droughts.
According to the Asian Water Development Outlook 2020, ADB’s flagship water publication, the region has seen gradual improvements in water security, yet 22 out of 49 ADB developing member countries (DMCs) remain “water insecure”. This represents more than 2 billion people or about half of the region’s population.
“Our region’s water security challenges cannot be solved following a ‘business as usual approach,” Mr. Um said. “For too long water has been undervalued and treated as an infinite resource, causing its waste and misuse.”
AWF 2022 is taking place on 8–11 August under the theme of a resilient and water-secure Asia and Pacific. The forum provides a platform for experts to share experiences on water developments, innovations, and technologies across the region. Participants include ADB DMC governments, water utilities, development partners, the private sector, water-related organizations, research centers and academia, civil society, and other stakeholder groups.
The forum will showcase ADB’s new guidance note on Mainstreaming Water Resilience in Asia and the Pacific, which supports the operationalization of resilience in water sector operations, planning, and policies through six pillars: accelerating upstream engagement and building DMC demand for resilient water investment and policies; adopting a water community approach to DMC water resilience capacity; strengthening ADB staff capacity to mainstream and deliver resilient projects; fostering knowledge, innovation, and partnerships; mobilizing finance for water resilience; and spearheading digitalization for water security and resilience. The publication will support the achievement of ADB’s climate financing targets and provides practical tools and approaches to foster resilience.
AWF 2022 will also feature the launch of the Asia and the Pacific Water Resilience Hub—an open platform dedicated to strengthening water security in the region. The hub will establish partnerships, provide training opportunities, and develop and share knowledge, innovative methods, tools, data, and digital technologies. The hub will enable water utilities, policymakers, and resource managers to build resilience by collating the best resources on offer in one smart system.