Friday, June 1, 2007

UN and ADB join hands to develop water projects in Asia

Good news to hear that the United Nations and the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) had agreed to collaborate on how to efficiently manage Asia's water resources and bolstering investments in safe and sustainable sanitation in the region.

The action came at a time when many parts of Asia, particularly those far-flung areas, have to rely either on poor or undeveloped water distribution and sanitation facilities. While others subsist on the primitive method of collecting water from the ground or streams, which are believed to be exposed to bacteria and other micro-organisms. Hence, endangering human health.

Aware of these negative developments, the United Nations’ Advisory Board and ADB expect that this collaboration will add value to their joint objective of helping achieve the millennium development goals related to water and sanitation in Asia,” according to the joint statement made by ADB Vice President Ursula Schaefer-Preuss and His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, who serves as chairman of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

The ADB said that one of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals, which were drawn up in 2000 by the United Nations Millennium Summit to reduce poverty and improve lives, was to at least reduce by 50 percent the number of people in Asia without access to safe water and sanitation by 2015.

Preuss said: “With political will and commitment, we believe that the millennium development goal target on water and sanitation is achievable. Financing for water investments is available. Responding to calls from the international community, ADB has committed to double its investments in water to $2 billion annually for five years."

In the rural areas, the only known method of purifying water is by boiling it because acquiring the supply of chlorine is either too expensive or unavailable at the most. This problem was traced to the non-availability of infrastructures necessary to sustain a well-designed water distribution project. Add to this the high costs of materials, transportation and maintenance, which all the more are giving headaches to most local government units that only survive on shoe-string budgets. Aggravating the situation is the rampant graft and corruption that is taking place in these poor localities, where international financial assistance is sometimes diverted to other purposes thereby defeating the true intention of what the project is meant to be.

Due to poor maintenance of water projects in some Asian countries, health problems are not remote thus affecting millions of people who survive on sourcing out unsafe water from deepweels and rivers, believed to a good breeding ground for mosquitoes and other water-borne diseases. At least, some 6 million children die each year because of water-borne diseases, says a report from the World Health Organization.

Therefore, the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation has encouraged Asian countries to prioritize water financing, and coordinate with donor governments to provide grant funds to support ADB’s Water Financing Program. For its part, ADB also set up the Water Financing Partnership Facility to support the Water Financing Program. Currently targeted at $100 million, the facility will provide grant resources and catalyze the water financing program by augmenting knowledge development and capacity building efforts.

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