Keynote speech by Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB Vice President, at the launch of TERI as Knowledge Hub for Water and Climate Change at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2010, New Delhi, India
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased to be here with you today on behalf of the Asian Development Bank. Enhancing partnership with the renowned regional knowledge centers such as The Energy and Resources Institute, or TERI, is one of the key pillars of ADB's recently established Knowledge Management Action Plan. So it is a pleasure to join with TERI in this launch of the Regional Knowledge Hub for Water and Climate Change Adaptation in South Asia.
As we have heard from scientists around there world, climate change mitigation is mostly about air, while adaptation is largely about water. It is therefore crucial to collaborate with development partners to address the climate-induced impacts on water in our region.
Today, rather than quoting statistics, I would like to illustrate what we are doing in a local district here in India, where the government and ADB are working together to improve water management.
While Orissa is known in India as a state with a relative abundance of water resources, Jajpur District in the Baitarani river basin is facing many water-related challenges. The town's population of about 50,000 is growing rapidly and the livelihoods of the people in the district continue to depend, to a large extent, on agriculture. The 150-year old irrigation system that takes water from the Baitarani river badly needs rehabilitation to allow equitable water distribution.
In response to these challenges in the Baitarani basin and the other 10 rivers in Orissa, the State Government has indicated its commitment to improving water management in an integrated manner. It has, in fact, already formulated new policies, plans, regulations and institutional arrangements to address the worsening situation. The implementation of these new policies and arrangements will be piloted in the Baitarani basin starting this year.
However, down scaled climate change projections for the area, which are critical in addressing climate induced water impacts, have yet to be prepared. The projected impacts on the water balance in the basin are therefore still uncertain. Colleagues in Jajpur District predict that the basin's freshwater resources will get scarcer as competition for water grows, while flood damages are expected to increase as more people settle in vulnerable low-lying areas in search of better livelihoods.
The water security challenges facing Jajpur District and the Baitarani river basin mirror the situation in other watersheds in South Asia. The variability of the monsoon climate makes it difficult for water resource managers to ensure that enough water is available for all uses and users. Climate change will make this even more challenging. Planners need to know how the water balance in their basin might change and what the expected impacts are, so that they can advise their political leaders about the adaptation investments required in order to ensure water security.
As a result of our recent discussion with Orissa's Department of Water Resources, we are able to provide the opportunity to tap into the expertise of the regional knowledge hubs for river basin organizations and management, healthy rivers and aquatic ecosystems, and flood risk management. This will help the government improve its knowledge and outcomes in the areas of climate change. Clearly, we need to maximize opportunities for knowledge networking between local practitioners and decision-makers and centers for excellence if we are to find alternative solutions that fit specific conditions.
In June 2008, the Asia-Pacific Water Forum launched its Regional Water KnowledgeHubs initiative to facilitate knowledge sharing in the Asia-Pacific region. Twelve hubs were announced and confirmed in the initial round, and 5 additional hubs, including TERI, gained recognition in 2009.
ADB brought this KnowledgeHubs to fruition in collaboration with the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and with Singapore's Public Utilities Board. Over the past one and a half years, 600 project clients have interacted with knowledge hubs through a number of workshops.
ADB's Long Term Strategic Framework (Strategy 2020) explicitly underlines the importance of effective knowledge management. Today's launch of TERI as the regional water knowledge hub for water and climate change adaptation in South Asia is an important milestone in ADB's knowledge management initiatives.
In closing, it's important to remember that knowledge is "power". We must help decision makers around the region to find and apply the right solutions to specific problems. The KnowledgeHubs initiative supported by ADB and other organizations offers an opportunity to empower decision makers with the right knowledge.
On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I offer our warmest congratulations to TERI as the new water knowledge hub led by Dr. Ashok Jaitly. We look forward to supporting our clients in South Asia to address the impacts of climate change on water.