Prioritize water security in pandemic recovery

Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Economies in Asia and the Pacific are urged to put water security at the top of their pandemic recovery agenda as it is the one of the first lines of defenses against the transmission of COVID-19 and other diseases, according to a new flagship report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Asian Water Development Outlook 2020 (AWDO) said despite achievements in the water sector in the region over the last few decades, 1.5 billion people living in rural areas and 600 million in urban areas still lack adequate water supply and sanitation.

Of the 49 ADB regional members, 27 face serious water constraints on economic development, and 18 are yet to sufficiently protect their inhabitants against water-related disasters.

The report noted improvements in the Philippine water system in the past several years, but noted that it is among the countries in the region where water service availability is an issue as there are some cities where water tariffs represent more than 10 percent of annual income of middle quintile households.

“The need for water security is even more urgent due to the COVID-19 pandemic because access to water, sanitation, and hygiene offers the primary line of defense against the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. Far too many people across Asia and the Pacific continue to suffer from limited access to these vital services,” said ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa.

“The new AWDO edition serves as a tangible and reliable knowledge resource for ADB’s developing members as they address the multifaceted challenges of water security,” he said.

The report cited the need for countries to drastically increase their investment in water, sanitation, and other water-related infrastructure and services by mobilizing all public, private and innovative financing.

Financing is also needed to enable and sustain good governance, which requires efficient water-related organizations with sufficient capacity and financial resources to enable them to provide coherent policies, monitor and evaluate progress.

The report also urges countries to put water supply at the center of sustainable rural development by promoting water-effective irrigation agriculture, community-based water and sanitation services.

Countries are also urged to achieve urban water security by investing in water, sanitation, and disaster risk reduction infrastructure services not only in cities, but also in slums and peripheral areas.

To improve the region’s water security, ADB has programmed more than $6 billion in financial and technical assistance between 2020 and 2022 to support safe water supply, sanitation and wastewater measures.

More than $2 billion, meanwhile, is programmed for flood risk management in the same period—together with tailored knowledge services that promote innovation and forge partnerships.

The National Economic and Development Authority announced recently that the list of flagship infrastructure projects is now recalibrated with the intention of moving more flood control and water supply projects forward.

The Public-Private Partnership Center also announced that more bulk water supply PPPs are progressing at the local level.

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