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Water articles are written by ADB staff and external contributors on various water issues, reforms, and good practices.

Messages from Beppu: Is Water Hotter Now?


December 2007

By Wouter Lincklaen Arriens

Lead Water Resources Specialist, ADB

Now that the leaders of 36 countries have concluded their 1st AsiaPacific Water Summit in the hot spring resort of Beppu on Japans Kyushu Island on 3-4 December, the question that begs asking is,How are the Summit results going to make a difference in water management in the region and in delivering the commitments of ADBs Water Financing Program 2006-2010? There are several areas where change is likely to happen as a result of the Summit, both in projects and through regional cooperation. Three of these areas are: integrated water resources management (IWRM) in river basins, disaster risk reduction, and knowledge management. IMPROVING WATER GOVERNANCE The most striking message from Beppu was the leaders endorsement of water governance as the key to improving water management, and that their leadership is needed to raise water to the top of the development agenda at local, national, and regional levels. The Government of Japan, for its part, declared that it will put water management and climate change on the agenda of the 2008 Toyako G8 Summit in Hokkaido, Japan. The key message from the Asian Water Development Outlook 2007 resonated strongly with leaders, participants, and the media alike as it said that if some of the Asian DMCs face a water crisis in the future, it will not be because of physical scarcity of water, but because of inadequate and inappropriate water governance, including management practices, institutional arrangements, and sociopolitical conditions. In retrospect, it comes as no surprise that ADBs Water for All policy received wide acclaim in the region over the past years, because of its support for improving water governance with a national focus on water reform, and its distinction between the governance of water services on one hand, and the integrated management of water resources in river basins on the other. Pursuing further work to improve water governance in the region will involve exploring actions in a number of themes, including accountability and performance, policy and legislation, reform and communications, regulation, project management, integrity and anticorruption, leadership and capacity development, private sector contracts and financing, and government-corporate-society partnerships, amongst others. MANAGING WATER RESOURCES IN RIVER BASINS Ongoing work across the region to introduce IWRM in river basins was highlighted prominently in discussions at the summit, and the
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following were credited for leading the Network of Asian River Basin Organizations (NARBO): Japan Water Agency, ADB, the ADB Institute, and the Governments of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. To further catalyze NARBOs work in the region, it was decided that practical guidelines for introducing IWRM will be prepared for use in projects. The guidelines are to be ready in time for presentation at the 5th World Water Forum in 2009, and will draw on NARBOs first five years of experience. Guidance is expected on such priority topics as water rights, water quality management, disaster management, and climate change adaptation. It was also recommended at the Summit that NARBOs ongoing performance benchmarking and peer review service for river basin organizations (RBOs), led by ADB and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), be expanded from the current four pilot river basins to ten or more basins in the region, and that NARBO also introduce practical indicators for measuring the health and performance of the river basins themselves. Participants also discussed examples in Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and the PRC where once polluted rivers have been restored to a more natural state and with attractive riverfronts that are now enjoyed by the public. This generated interest from participants from developing countries in the region to adopt similar activities as part of their river basin management work supported by NARBO. REDUCING DISASTER RISK Another topic that attracted highlevel attention at the Summit was disaster risk reduction. The AsiaPacific region accounts for more than 90 percent of lives lost globally to water-related disasters, and is marked by a rapidly increasing incidence of floods and their damage. It tops the list of the worlds regions for being the most vulnerable to disasters. Leaders at the Summit recognized the need for comprehensive strategies and to invest more in disaster risk reduction, both before and after disaster events. Furthermore, the leaders were briefed that climate change will have the highest impact on water resources and that this will further increase the regions vulnerability to disasters, with significant risk to slowing down economic growth and aggravating poverty. Recommendations therefore underlined the urgency of commencing climate change adaptation programs in the water sector.

The Summits session on disaster management was led by the International Center for Water Hazard and Risk Management (UNESCOICHARM), which was established by the Government of Japan in 2006. Leaders welcomed the announcement of collaboration between ADB and ICHARM to help reduce flood risk for 100 million people in the region under ADBs Water Financing Program. BUILDING REGIONAL WATER KNOWLEDGE HUBS In their statements at the Summit, leaders responded positively to the call for higher water investments and to raise water to the top of the development agenda, which was convincingly argued by ADBs President Kuroda and other leaders in their presentations. Remarkably, however, they also underlined the need for the investments in infrastructure to be matched with improvements in knowledge management and capacity development. In this regard, the joint initiative by PUB Singapore, UNESCO and ADB to establish a regional network of water knowledge hubs under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Water Forum received resounding support from the leaders. The network was launched last 31 October 2007 in Singapore in a regional consultation meeting facilitated by ADB and the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. Several of the candidate water knowledge hubs are expected to contribute to the implementation of the Water Financing Program, including PUB Singapore for urban water management, ICHARM in Japan for disaster risk reduction, K-Water in Korea for water quality management, Malaysia for climate change, IWMI for irrigation service reforms, Indonesia for river basin organization and management, and the Yellow River Conservancy Commission for decision support systems for river basin management. Candidate hubs are also recognized in central Asia and the Pacific to support projects in those subregions, and discussions are still ongoing about the establishment of knowledge hubs for water governance, sanitation, and other priority topics. MOVING FORWARD All in all, the summit was marked by leaders commitment to move forward with actions on several fronts, offering good opportunities to catalyze change through projects and regional cooperation work. It seems that the decision to host the Summit in Japans most famous hot spring resort has paid off, and that water is now getting hotter on the national and regional development agendas.

Wouter Lincklaen Arriens is the Lead Water Resources Specialist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Since 1994, he has coordinated ADBs work to support its member countries in water policies, reforms, knowledege management, capacity development, and regional cooperation. He serves as ADB spokesperson for water work, and recently coordinated the preparation of ADBs Water Financing Program 2006-2010, which seeks to double investments and results in rural and urban water services and water resources management in river basins. In this column, Wouter contributes his thoughts on water challenges and solution strategies in the Asia-Pacific region. *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in December 2007: http://www.adb.org/Water/Articles/2007/Beppu-Messages.asp.