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Facts and figures from the report

Freshwater Under Threat: Northeast Asia

Northeast Asia Facts

Northeast Asia covers a total land area of 11,764,596 km2. It is comprised of five countries People's Republic of China, Mongolia, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Northeast Asia has a total population of 1,508,263,000. It has a population density of about 128.km2, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

The total GDP of Northeast Asia was US$ 7,365 billion or US$5,062.per capita (62 percent of the world's average per capita GDP) in 2005/6.

Northeast Asia Freshwater Facts

The region is water scarce, in terms of total and per capita water resources.

The total available water resources for the region (excluding DPR Korea, which has no available data) are 3,351 km3, about 0.3 percent of the global total.

Per capita water availability is 2,221 m3, about 25.7 percent of the world's average.

The total water use in Northeast Asia is 684.3 km3, or 29.7 percent of the global total.

Per capita water use is 454 m3.per year, about 1.2 times the global average.

In 2002, about 335,000,000 inhabitants still lacked adequate access to safe drinking water.

In 2002, about 751,000,000 people still lacked access to improved sanitation, with 78 per cent being in rural areas.

Vulnerability Assessment and Vulnerability Index

A systematic analysis of the vulnerability of freshwater resources was carried out for five major river basins in Northeast Asia: the Chiangjiang (Yangtze), Huanghe (Yellow), and Songliao River Basins in China, and the Orkhon and Tuul River Basins in Mongolia.

A Vulnerability Index was developed and calculated for each river basin.

The Vulnerability Index has four basic components: (1) water resources base; (2) water resources development and use; (3) water resources for ecological health; and (4) water resources management.

Applying the VI, the vulnerability of a river basin ranges between 0.0 and 1.0 and is expressed as: VI = f (RS, DP, EH, MC), where: VI = Vulnerability Index; RS = Resource Stresses; DP = Development Pressures; EH = Ecological Health; and MC = Management Capacity.

The Vulnerability Index of a river basin can be expressed as Low (0.0-0.2), Moderate (0.2-0.4), High (0.4-0.7), and Severe (0.7-1.0).

Vulnerability Index of the Five Selected River Basins:

Changjiang (Yangtze) River Basin, China 0.264 Moderate vulnerability

Songliao Basin, China 0.369 Moderate vulnerability

Huanghe (Yellow) River Basin. China 0.529 High vulnerability

Tuul River Basin, Mongolia 0.441- High vulnerability

Orkhon River Basin, Mongolia 0.383 - Moderate vulnerability

The VI for the five river basins ranges from moderate to high. This means that management interventions are urgently needed to improve the state of water resources in the sub-region.

The Way Forward

The report has made four recommendations to better use the scarce freshwater resources in Northeast Asia, including how they can be better managed for more productive results.

1) Improve water use efficiency through a re-assessment of agricultural practices and the introduction of economic incentives in water-pricing policies. This includes boosting research and development (R&D) activities for water resources management in Northeast Asia as a priority. This R&D has traditionally been lacking in the region.

2) Develop comprehensive river basin management strategies through decentralizing the current system, providing more involvement to local governments, and promoting the participation of all water stakeholders. This recognises that different river basins have unique characteristics that are not easily identified by a centralized system. A coordinated mechanism for water resources allocation should also be put in place;

3) Provide tougher environmental protection and pollution control to reduce the severe degradation identified in four of the five selected river basins. This may include improved pollution control, erosion and sedimentation control, and restoring ecological flows;

4) Establish management priorities to ensure adequate access to safe drinking water is provided to poorer populations so they can meet their basic needs.

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