Mar 132013
Although the Philippines is surrounded by water and experiences at least 20 cyclones in a year, it is still far from achieving water security, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Based on the National Water Security Index, the Philippines comes out of level two out of five, said Wouter Lincklaen Arriens, ADB’s water resources specialist.

“It means it still has some quite a way to go,” Arriens said.

The index contained in the Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 measures the water adequacy of 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific region.

Although institutional arrangement and levels of public investment has been increasing, a level two in the index means that the Philippine government had “inadequate” legislation and policy toward securing water.

Focus on PHL

According to the latest study, the Philippine lagged in urban water security index, which gauges water services and management in cities. The country scored one out of five.

Urban water security also gauges the country’s public infrastructure and utilities, especially wastewater treatment.

To this, Arriens noted: “Much has to be done, especially in cities which is an area of serious concern.”

The fastest increase in water demand now comes from industries and cities, ADB revealed. “Cities occupy 2 percent of the world’s land, [but] uses 75 percent of its resources.”

The city’s wastewater was often released into rivers and lakes with only a fifth or 22 percent of discharges being treated, the study showed.

The study added that 80 percent of Asia’s rivers are in poor health, jeopardizing economies and quality of life. It estimated that about $1.75 trillion “ecosystem services” per year are threatened while rivers devastation continues.

“In Asia and the Pacific, waste water is often released into rivers, lakes and groundwater untreated or only partially treated… This region has the lowest environmental water security, posing huge challenges for sustainable development,” the study read.

“Public investments, market based approaches, and support from the private sector can reduce pollution and finance the restoration of healthy rivers. Every $1 invested in river restoration program can return more than $4 in benefits,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Philippines scored four out of five in the area of economic water security, which measures a country’s productive use of water to sustain economic growth in food production, industry and energy.

Solutions are available but…

ADB’s outlook estimated that the region needs $59 billion in investments for water supply and $71 billion for improved sanitation.

“Countries should double the current rates in sanitation… Every dollar invested in water and sanitation is likely to return $5 to $46 in reduce health care cost and increased economic productivity,” it said.

To prevent a possible water crisis, ADB explained that water governance should be improved.

“Major changes in water governance are needed in nearly all Asian developing countries. If some Asian developing countries face a water crisis in the future, it will not be of physical scarcity of water, but because of inadequate water governance,” the multilateral agency said.

“We need new institutional mindset and mechanisms,” said Mohamed Ait-Kadi, technical committee head at Global Water Partneship. “Policies and regulations are not always effective… A water secure world needs fundamental changes… not just in water institutions but to all stakeholders.”

“Solutions are available… but motivation to act is missing,” Kadi added.

ADB likewise advised countries to “adopt corporate-style governance.”

“Water scarcity is already a reality… [and the] problem will only accelerate,” he stressed.

Asia-Pacific Region

According to ADB’s latest study, more than 60 percent of households in Asian and the Pacific region live without safe, piped water supply and improved sanitation.

Agriculture in region accounts for 79 percent of annual average water withdrawals, but as the demand for food increase, water depletion hasten, the ADB study said.

Countries should modernize irrigation services, actively manage water demand and consumption, and implement measures to reduce competition among users, it advised.

“Every $1 invested in the modernization of irrigation services improves rural gross domestic product by almost $2.” — KBK, GMA News

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