Asia Society calls for strategy to avert water crisis

April 18th, 2009 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 18 (IANS) Warning that decreased access to a safe, stable water supply in Asia “will have a profound impact on security throughout the region”, the Asia Society has sought a strategy to avert a crisis in countries like India.

The cascading set of consequences reduced access to fresh water will trigger include impaired food production, the loss of livelihood security, large-scale migration within and across borders, and increased economic and geopolitical tensions and instabilities, said a task force report of the Asia Society released in New York Friday.

The Asia Society is an international organisation dedicated to strengthening relationships and deepening understanding among the peoples of Asia and the US.

The task force on “Asia’s Next Challenge: Securing the Region’s Water Future” was chaired by Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large and Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Water Forum Tommy Koh. It included among its members Rajendra K. Pachauri, Indian chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Ajit Gulabchand of Hindustan Construction.

The task force report highlights the fact that although Asia is home to more than half of the world’s population, the region has less freshwater per capita than any continent other than Antarctica.

It maintains that while solutions are well within reach, they will require high-level political will and significant investments. Governments need to develop policies that can address multiple problems simultaneously, with the aim of reducing security risks and vulnerabilities and providing economic benefits such as investments in infrastructure for water conservation and management.

Asian countries should forge a regional approach in which governments and other key stakeholders, including nongovernmental organisations, civil society groups, and businesses, work together to clarify responsibilities and coordination mechanisms to address water security concerns.

For instance, looking beyond India’s national borders, the transboundary river systems that cut across India will drive hydropolitics in the region as India’s water consumption rates continue to climb, the report suggests.

India’s control of water flow along the Ganges River compromises Bangladesh’s ability to monitor and predict floods, the report suggests noting that “for Bangladesh, the Ganges may be the largest and most critical source of wate, but it is only one of more than 50 rivers entering the country from India”.

“While the Joint Ganges River Commission facilitates information sharing between the two nations, Bangladesh continues to demand greater cooperation.”

More data - including rainfall data from farther upstream - would help Bangladesh prepare vulnerable downstream populations and improve models used to predict extreme events, the report says.

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