ADB, Partners Find Ways to Make Sanitation a Sustainable Business

News Release | 23 May 2011

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - With nearly 2 billion people in Asia and the Pacific having no access to adequate sanitation, representatives of governments, the business community, nongovernment organizations and international organizations are meeting at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to discuss ways to ramp up investments in the sector.

The "2nd ADB-DMC and Partners Sanitation Dialogue" calls for greater access to sanitation for all and focuses on actions needed to make sanitation and wastewater management a sustainable business.

"We have a silent humanitarian crisis in Asia. Hundreds of millions of Asians are ashamed to speak about their lack of access to safe and improved sanitation," said Arjun Thapan, ADB's Special Senior Advisor for Infrastructure and Water, during his keynote address. "But it is more than just shame if human dignity and lives are needlessly lost. In expanding sanitation coverage in Asia, silence is a luxury that we cannot afford."

Currently, there is an investment gap of $7 billion for sanitation facilities and $53 billion for wastewater treatment in Asia to be filled by 2015. While environmental sanitation is considered an investment dead-end by many, the three-day forum aims to promote awareness that with new technologies and new modes of financing, sanitation can become an attractive business for governments and private investors.

"The unfortunate paradox is that at a time when Asia is in a water crisis, up to 80% of its wastewater goes untreated. Correcting this will require investing in wastewater management as a business - to clean our environment, to dramatically improve public health, and to put 'new' water into circulation. If this is not an adequate profit motive, I wonder what is," said Mr. Thapan.

ADB's annual average lending for sanitation has increased $300 million from the period 2003-2007 to $710 million for 2008-2010. As a proportion of ADB's overall funding commitments, water and sanitation have increased from an average of 8.5% in 2003-2007 to about 17% in 2008-2010.

ADB will be discussing a new initiative on Promoting an Asia-Pacific Wastewater Management Revolution. The initiative will focus on increasing awareness and capacity of ADB's member countries in developing sustainable wastewater management plans and projects using appropriate policy, technology, and financing options.

Speakers include Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development; Margaret Catley-Carlson, a member of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation; Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of Sulabh International, an organization dedicated to providing affordable sanitary facilities throughout India; Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organization; and Jon Lane, Executive Director, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and a Stockholm Water Prize winner.