NEW DELHI, INDIA - Partnerships and cooperation among local communities as well as communities of nations must be strengthened if Asia and the Pacific is to achieve sustainable development, a senior ADB official told an environment summit in New Delhi today.
The region's natural resources and environment will increasingly be the focus of partnership efforts, Rajat Nag, Director General of ADB's Mekong Department, told the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) on its opening day.
"How well we have taken care of our environmental infrastructure - air, land, forests, and water - will determine the success and sustainability of our current and future economic development plans," said Mr. Nag, who is also Special Advisor to ADB's President on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration.
He pointed out that current economic growth rates will have to be maintained - or even boosted - to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, such as halving poverty by 2015. But such growth cannot be sustained given the existing pattern and intensity of natural resource use.
"Natural resources such as energy and water could be the Achilles heel of our development dreams and aspirations," he told the summit.
Solving the region's environmental management problems is not within the means of any single community or country, he stressed. "Therefore, cooperation among stakeholders and countries is necessary for addressing the region's current and emerging development challenges."
But there are challenges that need to be overcome in building such partnerships. Achieving consensus requires resources and patience, while there could be different priorities and unevenness of capacity and capability among partners, he said. Partnerships also require sustained financial support.
"Managing these risks is where the role of universities, philanthropic and multilateral institutions such as ADB, and civil society, is critical," he said. "These institutions can and should bridge the short-term with the long-term development interests and horizons."
Sustainable use of natural resources is an integral part of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) economic cooperation program that ADB has facilitated since the program's inception in 1992, explained Mr. Nag, whose department works with the GMS countries.
Under the GMS Core Environment Program (CEP), environmental management is linked to performance improvements in key economic sectors such as energy, transport, infrastructure, tourist and trade to get the necessary by-in from key ministries, business, and local communities.
"One of the key lessons from our GMS cooperation program in general, and CEP in particular, is that patience and long-term commitment are necessary for success," Mr. Nag said.
"Trust building across communities and nations is, by definition, complex. Therefore, it has to be built step by step. Partnerships working on environmental management are bound to create a network of communities, technocrats, civil servants, civil society organizations, businesses and entrepreneurs, academics, researchers, and community leaders."
He concluded these networks should and can become effective channels for strengthening mutual trust among partners.
DSDS, organized by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) runs from 2 to 4 February in New Delhi.
Another ADB Director General, Bindu Lohani, who heads the Regional and Sustainable Development Department and is Special Advisor to the ADB President on Clean Energy and Environment, will speak on the closing panel of the DSDS on Saturday.