Opening Remarks by ADB Vice-President Bambang Susantono at the Asia Water Forum 2018 on 2 October 2018, ADB Headquarters, Manila, Philippines

President Nakao, distinguished forum participants, a very good morning to all of you.

On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, allow me to welcome you all to the Asia Water Forum 2018.

I would like to acknowledge the many eminent leaders including Honorable Seung-soo Han, Former Prime Minister, Republic of Korea, Honorable Chairul Tanjung, Former Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs of Indonesia, and Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Chairperson, Board of Governors, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, as well as the numerous CEOs, heads of agencies, researchers and other water luminaries.

I want to thank everyone for coming here to share your expertise and also experiences. This will be an exciting and knowledge-packed week that showcases the latest in Information, Innovation and Technology as we work together to achieve water security for the Asia and Pacific region.

Water is the source of life and the pillar of civilization. The ancient great civilizations of the world came into being because of their proximity to water and the abundance of resources provided by their river basins. Human societies throughout history have found new means and devised ingenious methods to secure water for agriculture, drinking, bathing, transport and economic development. Modernity and the rapid urbanization taking place in Asia are no different – water is just as vital for sustained inclusive growth and human well-being.

While water retains its fundamental role, the challenges to satisfy human needs for water are far more complex and difficult. Accelerated growth, competition, and mismanagement have created recurring crises across Asia and the Pacific. There is often too much water causing devastating impacts, which is worsening with climate change and land-use change. Pervasive droughts are the new normal and for all our engineering marvels, the impacts can still be as devastating as ancient times; disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable. We have services unable to cope with our growing populations harming health, human development, and the potential of future generations.

The challenges are daunting. Over the past two decades, the Asia Pacific region has experienced unparalleled economic growth, yet is home to half of the world’s poorest people and inequality is growing. With a predicted 22 megacities by 2030 and a population of 5.2 billion by 2050 water demand for Asia Pacific is expected to increase by 55%.

In 2015, 300 million people lacked access to improved water sources in Asia Pacific, and over 1.5 billion people lacked access to safe sanitation. About 90% of all wastewater is released untreated, significantly affecting health, livelihoods, and productivity.

Agriculture will need to produce much more food by 2050, 60% more globally and 100% more in developing countries, using diminishing water resources. In 2016, Asia reported estimated losses worth over $21 billion from flood-related disasters.

These challenges are also compounded by pervasive weak governance and institutional capacity.

Current challenges and mismanagement have transformed basins of abundance into basins of scarcity and insecurity. The graphic illustrates water supplies available in major basins to meet human needs, and it is a stressed-out world.

Water insecurity costs the global economy $500 billion annually with a total drag of 1% or more of the global GDP.

Investments are desperately needed. ADB estimates Asia and the Pacific requires $800 billion in investment over the period 2016–2030 in water and sanitation infrastructure alone. ADB’s sovereign water portfolio is growing to an estimated $5 billion a year by 2020. But taking it all together with other donors financing, much work is still required to fill the financing gap including crowding in the private investment.  

In addition to financing, the ADB brings knowledge to help its client countries overcome challenges to water security. ADB’s flagship analytical publication is the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO), which provides a methodology to assess water security across five key dimensions (i) household, (ii) economy, (iii) urban, (iv) environmental, and (v) resilience to water related disaster and then provides an aggregated score.

AWDO 2016 illustrates that water security in the region is improving slightly, however, continued progress cannot be guaranteed. The new AWDO 2020 edition will have an (i) updated methodology for more accurate assessments, (ii) expanded analysis on governance and financing, and (iii) the ability to be applied at basin and subnational scale and will be a much more powerful tool for policy development and investment planning to address water security.

The complex and multidimensional aspects of water security require a more holistic solution, and to help achieve this ADB’s recently approved Strategy 2030, which provide a new paradigm that moves from a sector-based approach to a more integrated development approach. Strategy 2030 addresses Seven Operational Priorities that will be delivered through ADB’s public and private sector operations, advisory services, and knowledge support. Water is not addressed independently of other development considerations.

The Asia Water Forum 2018 – this forum on Information, Innovation and Technology, reflects our commitment to achieve water security of Asia and the Pacific. As noted in the video, we have over 800 participants and countless opportunities to see new technology and innovations; meet with fellow water colleagues to share experience and knowledge; expand your network; and most importantly to renew your inspiration, passion and ideas to meet the water challenges of the 21st century. I think we all agree that knowledge is essential.

Our journey continues to be challenging and complex in our quest to addressing water security for Asia and the Pacific.

We do have at our disposal vast know-how and experience. You will see in the coming days, a range of solutions from sophisticated to sometimes simple using:

  1. IT support systems, big data and remote sensing
  2. smart water grids and advanced leak detection mechanisms
  3. water accounting and productivity enhancing tools
  4. mobile phone applications
  5. non-sewered sanitation
  6. and cost-effective community level nature-based solutions

We have a large canvas to be innovative and think outside the box and find the appropriate solution in time. Let us forge partnerships, leverage our intellectual capabilities and together achieve a water-secure Asia and the Pacific.  

I wish you all constructive and stimulating discussions.

Thank you.


  • Susantono, Bambang
    Susantono, Bambang
    Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development