Think Differently for Asia's Water, Food, and Energy Security - ADB President

NEW DELHI, INDIA – It is critical that Asia’s precious but increasingly scarce water resources are managed in a coordinated way to ensure the region has not only sufficient water but also enough food and energy to meet its needs, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao said today.

“We need to think differently about water and its uses for food and energy production—and take action,” Mr. Nakao told delegates in a keynote speech at the 14th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in New Delhi.

Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 notes that 36 of ADB’s 48 Asian member countries, including the People’s Republic of China and India, have poor water security, with some nations facing imminent water crises that threaten their food and energy security. ADB’s Food Security in Asia and the Pacific publication calls for a new approach in addressing malnutrition while the Energy Outlook for Asia and the Pacific looks at the policy, social, infrastructure, and technology issues affecting energy demand.

Mr. Nakao said it is critical to look at the links - or nexus - between water, food, and energy.

Excessive groundwater has been extracted in some places because subsidized energy allows for unrestricted use of electric power pumps. This in turn threatens water shortages for farmers and a lower power supply to other users. Such distorted pricing must disappear.

Meanwhile, rising energy use will squeeze already scarce water resources since large quantities of water are needed for extracting energy and refining fuels.  As 80% of water use is for agriculture, water shortages lead to food shortages. The region must change its mindset to understand that “food wasted is water and energy wasted,” Mr.  Nakao said.

He said river basin organizations that gather users, utilities, and government representatives are key to resolving competition between different uses for water. ADB is working with such organizations to encourage collaborative water management, set up new institutions with better data and information, and encourage innovative technologies. These activities are helping improve water security for more than 400 million people in around 30 rivers basins in the region.

The annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit gathers policymakers, experts, and leaders from business, academia, and civil society to discuss sustainable development. The event is organized by The Energy and Resources Institute, based in New Delhi.