Sanitation and Wastewater Management

In the Spotlight

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In the Asia and Pacific region, 1.7 billion people still do not have access to decent toilets – 41% without improved sanitation. About 758 million people are still practicing open defecation. Around 80% of wastewater is discharged without treatment. Open defecation, lack of improved sanitation, and inadequate wastewater management systems pollute groundwater, rivers, and coasts—the same water bodies used for drinking, fishing, bathing and swimming.

One of the envisioned long-term impacts of ADB’s Water Financing Program (WFP) is a significant increase in the number of people in the Asia and Pacific region with access to reliable and affordable sanitation and wastewater services. Expanding sanitation and wastewater management is also one of the priority thrusts set out by ADB’s Water Operational Plan 2011–2020.

Sanitation: dignity, disease, and dollars

The WFP targets 500 million people with sustainable access to improved sanitation for 2006-2020. ADB’s call to action—"Dignity, Disease, and Dollars"—has been chosen deliberately to focus attention on three areas where stakeholders need to see results:

  • Better facilities for individuals so they can regain their dignity
  • Disease prevention and healthy environment for the wider community
  • Financial viability of sanitation services for provider governments and utilities in tandem with affordability for households

Sanitation does not end with the provision of household toilets. It includes wastewater conveyance, treatment, and disposal or reuse, as well as maintenance of the assets and quality of service delivery.

Promoting innovations in wastewater management

Many Asia-Pacific countries still do not consider wastewater management as a priority. Low demand and low willingness to pay, together with lack of enabling environment, inhibit investors from this business. But there are ways to turn this situation around.

Wastewater must be seen as a resource with potential financial returns (from augmenting water supply for irrigation, power cooling, industrial and non-potable uses; providing organic fertilizer; and generating energy source) and opportunities for green employment.

ADB’s initiative on Promoting Innovations in Wastewater Management in Asia and the Pacific, launched in 2012, aims to improve urban sanitation conditions by helping key cities in the region in increasing awareness and interest in wastewater issues and solution options. The initiative will identify innovative and cost-effective solutions as potential investments in wastewater, septage and sludge management.

Asia needs US$71 billion worth of investments to bring sanitation for all in the Asia-Pacific region.