New institute to address Asia’s water challenges

June 24th, 2008 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Singapore, June 24 (DPA) The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy launched Tuesday the Institute of Water Policy to meet some of Asia’s most critical water challenges with respect to policy and governance. “Water is a global priority,” said Kishore Mahbubani, the school’s dean. “There will be strong synergies between the work we do on water and the ongoing research on energy and climate change, public health and public management,” he said.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) maintains that some 700 million people in the region lack access to safe water and about two billion lack access to basic sanitation facilities. The institute aims to undertake research on water policy and its governance in countries across Asia to find more effective solutions, a statement said.

K.E. Seetharam, currently the principal water supply and sanitation specialist at the ADB, is new director for the institute.

The institute will receive 7.5 million Singapore dollars ($5.6 million) from the Singapore government and the Public Utilities Board for its first five years.

The city-state has identified the water sector to be one of the key growth areas for the economy, and has plans to become a global hydro-hub.

Countries that offer water subsidies are places with the biggest problems as it undermines the incentive structure for the efficient operation of water facilities, the statement said.

“Water utilities that perform well such as Singapore and Cambodia are the ones where water is valued as a scarce commodity and priced accordingly,” it noted.

Water-related technology is increasingly becoming widely available across developing countries in Asia, Mahbubani said. What hinders real progress on clean water delivery is sound policies and leadership.

“We have to now move from aspiration to action in resolving Asia’s water crisis,” said Mahbubani, noting the institute holds great potential to address the challenges that the continent faces on clean water management.

The launching of the institute is part of Singapore International Water Week, where government officials, industry leaders and water specialists are meeting and discussing policies, business solutions and water technologies.

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