“Profound” water-security links seen

Reduced access to a safe, stable water supply in Asia “will have a profound impact on security throughout the region,” according to a new Asia Society report. Entitled Asia’s Next Challenge: Securing the Region’s Water Future, the society recommends a comprehensive strategy – requiring high-level political will and significant investments -- to avert a crisis in the region.

Less freshwater in Asia will mean impaired food production, loss of livelihood security, large-scale migration within and across borders, and increased economic and geopolitical tensions and instabilities, warned the New York-based think tank.

“The current approach to viewing water scarcity and quality concerns through a predominantly environmental lens is no longer sufficient,” said Vishakha N Desai, president of the Asia Society. Policymakers, he said, also need to consider the national security and development challenges that countries and communities will face as water scarcity intensifies.

Asia is home to half of the world’s population while having less freshwater per capita than any continent other than Antarctica. Currently, one in five of its people (700 million people) do not have access to a clean water supply, and half of the region’s population of 1.8 billion lacks access to basic sanitation. Population growth, rising urbanisation rates, rapid economic growth and climate change are expected to worsen the situation.

The report also draws attention to some of the most significant current and future water-related challenges facing the region. They include water disputes involving hostile states such as India and Pakistan; conflicts in China’s villages and provinces resulting from agricultural and industrial pollution; and the negative impact that climate change will have on Asia’s glaciers, which are the primary freshwater source for many countries.

Governments need to develop policies that can address multiple problems simultaneously, the society said, and forge a regional approach in which key stakeholders work together on water security concerns.

See full story