Background of the water situation in Asia-Pacific
Asia is home to 60% of the world’s population, with only 36% of the world’s freshwater resources. Pollution, from industry, agriculture and not least, human waste, adds enormous pressure on freshwater availability;
In Asia, demand for water increased over 300 percent in the last 50 years while the supply remains the same. In most part of the region, demand exceeds yield of aquifers and rivers;
Around half of the rivers in the region have exceedingly high nutrient concentrations; many water bodies, particularly in South-East Asia, contain heavy metals in excess of WHO basic water quality standards. Levels of suspended solids in rivers in Asia have risen by a factor of 4 over the last three decades. Arsenic pollution is both a cause of large scale environmental contamination and a serious health hazard.
Around 62 thousand people have been killed annually in 2001-2005 due to water related disaster.
The key challenges on water include:
- Glaciers in Himalaya are shrinking due to global warming and is a threat for availability of water in future;
- Water demand would go up drastically due to rapid urbanization, industrialization and agriculture production, and most of the areas in the region is projected to be water stressed by 2025; and
- Meeting MDG would be a challenge since, in 2006, 669 million people (1 in 5) without access to safe drinking water, 2 billion people (1 in 2) lacks access to sanitation, and investment in the order of US $ 8 billion would be required annually to meet MDG target for water supply and sanitation.
Water Related Activities in Asia-Pacific
Assessment of Transboundary Water Pollution in Central Asia: A study has been initiated to assess the status of water pollution in 5 countries, and in transboundary water bodies in Central Asia. The countries included: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The study will include: i) data base on key indicators to assess surface and ground water quality as well as water resources; ii) key policies and strategies related to management of water pollution and resources; and iii) proposed action plan to address the priority issues related to water pollution.
Regional Environmental Knowledge Hub (eKH): The eKH has been established at the Regional Resources Centre of the UNEP (UNEP RRC) in Bangkok. Data, information and knowledge related to water for the region is available in the e-KH website. The water knowledgebase includes: assessment reports on water resources at local, national, subregional and regional levels; water conservation and management best practices in the region; GIS based knowledge based product on water of South Asian countries; trend of water indicators in the countries in the region; and inventory information on Glacier lakes in the HKH region. A partnership has been forged with collaborating centres and specialized agencies to regularly update the data and information in the eKH.
Water vulnerability assessment in the region: Preparation of water vulnerability assessment report in the region has been initiated. The assessment has been carried out in major watershed basin and subregion in the Asia. These includes: Ganga-Brahmaputra- Meghana Basin, Grater Mekong basin, Helmand River basin and also in the subregional basis. Under this assessment process several reports will be published in subregional as well as in regional level. AIT is working as the collaborating centre for the preparation of the report. A draft report is going to be prepared in June followed by several subregional consultations in the subregion.