ADB Conference Aiming to Boost Investment to Meet Asia's Water Challenges

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - A Water Financing Program Conference opened yesterday at ADB's Manila Headquarters aiming to accelerate water investments for the five participating countries.

The conference brings together central and line agency high-level representatives from India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Viet Nam, including experts on urban, rural, and basin water issues, as well as finance and planning ministry officials.

Over two days, they will discuss barriers to water investment, practical strategies to overcoming the barriers, ADB products and services that can help them, and opportunities for water investments.

In 2002, about 700 million people in the Asia and Pacific region were still without safe water supplies and some 2 billion had inadequate or no toilet facilities. Investments to provide people with safe drinking water and decent toilet facilities, to allocate and preserve water resources, and to properly manage wastewater have fallen seriously behind demands.

“Improvements in the MDG indicators for income levels, hunger, communicable diseases, maternal and child mortality rates, and environmental sustainability rest on many factors. But all have one factor in common: Water,” ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda told the meeting's opening.

“Water is essential to sustain life, to provide food, to create the conditions for higher levels of health, education and income.”

Delegates heard that among People's Republic of China, Pakistan, Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Viet Nam – none except India and China will meet the water target, and only Pakistan, India and the Philippines may to meet the sanitation target. Indonesia might not meet neither target unless investment is significantly increased.

To address these problems, ADB announced earlier this year that it would double its investments in water operations through the new Water Financing Program (WFP) 2006-2010. WFP will focus on the delivery of substantial investment, reform, and capacity development in three key areas: rural water services, urban water services, and river basin water management.

“ADB is well positioned to lead the way for achievement of MDG 10 in the region,” Mr. Kuroda told participants. “We recognize that individual countries cannot meet this important challenge on their own. Strong regional partnerships involving governments, development institutions, civil society and the private sector are needed to support your efforts.”

Water reforms and improved governance are also crucial, he said. “It is for this reason that ADB takes a comprehensive approach that includes support for reforms and capacity building, along with financing,” Mr. Kuroda added.

The ADB President said that getting water to the top of the development agenda will require good coordination and leadership from outside the water sector.

“That leadership must involve the finance and planning agencies,” he said. “The days are over in which water issues could be delegated entirely to water agencies to handle. Water has become everyone’s business, and therefore a national development issue.”