Asia Must Address Climate Change Impact on Water and Food - ADB Panel

HA NOI, VIET NAM - Climate change will create unprecedented challenges in the Asia-Pacific region in coming years, intensifying existing pressures on water and food supplies, while exacerbating weather related disasters, a panel of experts stressed today.

The seminar, “Climate Risk and Resilience: Securing the Region’s Future,” examined the threats posed by climate change to water and food security in the region and explored strategies to manage those threats. Key solutions include scaling up efforts to “climate proof” infrastructure, manage disaster risks such as floods and droughts, and adopt regional food security strategies. The seminar took place at ADB’s 44th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors here.

Pressures on water and food supplies must be eased because current high food prices are already worsening poverty in Asia. ADB estimates that a sustained 10% rise in domestic food prices in developing Asia, home to 3.3 billion people, could push an additional 64 million people into extreme poverty. Domestic food inflation in many countries in Asia averaged 10% in early 2011.

Panelists noted that many countries in the region are already experiencing chronic water shortages. By 2030, demand for water in Asia is anticipated to exceed supply by 40%. Unsustainable practices such as the “mining” of groundwater is already taking place. Since nearly 80% of the region’s water is used in agricultural production, shortages of water can also contribute to shortages of food.

Speakers emphasized the convergent risks posed by increasing water and food insecurity on the one hand and devastating floods and droughts on the other. Climate change, through more frequent occurrence of severe weather events and changing rainfall patterns, is expected to put additional pressures on Asia’s water and food supplies.

“If we do not fully grasp the inter-related issues of water, food, and climate change and address them head on, we may lose the hard-won gains in our fight against poverty,” said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB’s Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development in an introduction to the discussion. “We must work together to make Asia and the Pacific more resilient to the impacts of climate change and ensure water and food security for all.”

Seminar participants discussed opportunities for improved policies, enhanced technology innovation and increased financing to make Asia and the Pacific more resilient to climate change and other risks.