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IMPROVING ACCESS to clean water and sanitation are crucial in enabling Asia to achieve sustainable economic prosperity and effectively eradicate poverty

IMPROVING ACCESS to clean water and sanitation are crucial in enabling Asia to achieve sustainable economic prosperity and effectively eradicate poverty, Asian Development Bank Vice President Liqun Jin said during his speech before participants of the steering committee preparing for the first Asia Pacific Water Summit scheduled in December.

“Last year, ADB commissioned an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to assess the development prospects of the Asia and Pacific region and provide recommendations on its course of actions,” said Mr. Jin in his remarks before the second steering committee meeting held in Tokyo. “The EPG report concludes that by 2020, Asia will be dramatically transformed, free of pervasive extreme poverty, with 90 percent of the continent’s people living in “middle income” countries, and a regional economy comprising 45 percent of global GDP and 35 percent of world trade.”

“Achieving this vision, however, will require concerted efforts by the stakeholders, including its Governments, its civil societies, and all development partners,” Mr. Jin said. “We in ADB will do our best. And such a vision simply cannot be achieved if the region’s massive needs for clean water, improved sanitation and sustainable water resource management are not met.”

Asia faces the biggest challenge in the world in the access to drinking water. Between 2002 and 2004, an additional 117 million were served in the region, but the progress has been insignificant, and the gap is still considerable. The coverage moved up from 80.9% in 2002 to 81.1% in 2004. However, another 635 million remain unserved.

The region is also saddled with a serious problem in access to sanitation. Between 2002 and 2004, an additional 117 million were served, but progress has also been modest and the gap remains huge. The coverage moved up from 42.8% in 2002 to 44.7% in 2004. A total of 1.86 billion remain unserved.

Mr. Jin said that water financing and capacity development is a high priority for ADB, and the Bank is pleased to be the lead agency for this area through the Asia Pacific Water Forum.

At the fourth World Water Forum in Mexico in 2006, water ministers from the Asia Pacific sought the establishment of a new network that will address water challenges in the region. Several development agencies supported the proposal and the Asia Pacific Water Forum was officially launched at the conference on ADBs Water Financing Program last year.

The Asia Pacific Water Forum is working to increase the region’s access to improved water supplies and sanitation, protect and restore river basins and reduce people’s vulnerability to water disasters. Its initial task is to organize an Asia Pacific Water Summit, which will be held in Oita Prefecture, Japan. It will focus on measures that will ensure the effective delivery of adequate and safe water supply to critical areas in the region.

Mr. Jin said the ADB supports the vision of making the Asia Pacific Water Summit an action-oriented meeting that will help the region achieve the Millennium Development Goal and Target on water in the region, which is essentially to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation by 2015.

As a key supporter of the Asia Pacific Water Forum, ADB recently approved a $1 million grant to support the Water Summit and other forum activities.

ADB also launched a Water Financing Program 2006-2010, which aims to double the Bank’s water investments over the next five years. “We have adopted specific outcome targets for these investments, one of which is to improve water services for 200 million people in urban and rural areas,” said Mr. Jin.

A Water Financing Partnership Facility was also set by ADB to provide grants for investment projects, technical assistance operations, knowledge management, and regional cooperation. Initial contributions to the facility are targeted at $100 million by 2008.

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