Rapid urbanization, population growth and climate change are threatening sustainable access to water resources and services in Asia-Pacific, according to the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR 2018) on Nature-Based Solutions for Water, launched today in Bangkok. The report recommends addressing these water challenges by looking into nature-based solutions – green engineering techniques that integrate or imitate natural processes.
Hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UNESCO, the regional launch of the report took place today at a side-event during the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development. The special event marked the Asia-Pacific opening of the United Nations’ Decade on Water for Sustainable Development (2018-2028), and the official commemoration of this year’s World Water Day (22 March), which is on Nature for Water.
Opening the event, Ms. Katinka Weinberger, Chief of the Environmental and Development Policy Section at ESCAP, highlighted that the region faces serious scarcity issues, with the lowest per capita water availability in the world, along with an increased demand for water due to expanding economies. However, many challenges related to water in Asia and the Pacific can be addressed through nature-based solutions.
“Many challenges in our region create direct obstacles to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and particularly the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation. Many of these challenges can be addressed by applying nature-based solutions, for example through improved soil and vegetation management,” said Ms. Weinberger.
UNESCO Bangkok Director (a.i) Ms. Maki Hayashikawa said that by working with nature instead of trying to bypass it, nature-based solutions can improve water availability and quality, while reducing waste and pollution in Asia-Pacific. “Adopting nature-based solutions will allow the region to maximize its water potential and generate social, economic and environmental co-benefits.”
Ms. Hayashikawa noted that 2018 would be a “milestone” year for efforts to ensure water security in the region, as the first SDG6 synthesis report on water and sanitation will also be launched at the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
In his remarks, Prof. Lawrence Surendra, Chairman of the Sustainability Platform in Asia, congratulated the joint efforts of ESCAP and UNESCO and underlined the need to strengthen the role of the regional commissions and water think-tanks to maintain the political momentum.
NEED FOR NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS IN ASIA-PACIFIC
The failure of business-as-usual approaches in addressing water-related challenges in Asia-Pacific is made clear by the number of people who live in areas that still face potential water scarcity. Throughout the early-mid 2010s, 73 per cent of the estimated 3.6 billion people worldwide who face these conditions for at least one month a year were living in Asia.
Disappearing wetlands and forests and the degradation of soil resources, particularly on farmland, are negatively impacting the water cycle and making water availability in the region less predictable.
In a presentation at the side event, Mr. Benno Boer, Chief of UNESCO Bangkok’s Natural Sciences Sector, noted that nature-based solutions will allow the region to maximize its water potential and generate social, economic and environmental benefits by contributing to biodiversity conservation, aiding in the development of sustainable water systems, sanitation, and reducing the risks associated with water-related disasters and climate change.
Prof. Sucharit Koontanakulvong, Chulalonkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand congratulated the United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) for the timely launch of the two analytical publications of WWDR 2018 and the SDG6 Synthesis Report. “New publications are advancing the framing of the new research opportunities to support policy making in the region,” he said.
The WWDR is an annual publication by the United Nations World Water Assessment Programme of UNESCO and UN-Water, which involves 31 Members and 38 Partners.
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