The Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF) has organized the APWF webinar series as a part of the important preparation process for the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit (APWS). The objective of the APWF webinar series is to widen and deep-dive into the knowledge of government officials from 49 countries in Asia and the Pacific, including those working in embassies in Japan, and to hold discussions on the latest water and water-related issues from different perspectives.
The third APWF webinar was organized on 10th November 2020. Prof. Shahbaz Khan, Director, UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia, and the Pacific., talked about Re-Charting Water Pathways for Greener Recovery Options.
Overview of his talk
The persistent challenge of COVID-19 pandemic makes us bring forward urgent need to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability. In order to re-chart the sustainable pathways in water sector for building back better and more greener recovery, Prof. Khan showed where we have been, we are now, where we should go toward 2030, and where are the key entry points to address water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), capturing some trends in Asia through the data and the outcomes of survey about water management in water utilities’ sectors as well as Asia’s mega cities. Prof. Khan then highlighted what we should do and how we can walk the walk toward sustainable, resilient, and inclusive societies, by focusing on “sound healthy water cycle leading to reduced social inequalities”.
Prof. Khan highlighted the following:
1.The necessity to make further efforts to address WASH, particularly hygiene (H)
Washing hands is very important and very basic to cutting the cycle of the COVID-19. However, Asia-Pacific is seriously lagging behind on SDG 6.2.1 on Hygiene and overall WASH targets. Unless we solve the problems of hygiene, we will not be able to solve many of the health-related issues.
2. The necessity to deal with social inequality
While the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges which we must overcome, the biggest challenge is social inequalities. Access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water and sanitation services and hygiene are basic human rights. We must work for the people who have been left behind on WASH, those exists billion in Asia and the Pacific. We need to carefully look at the root causes of problem of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene by carefully analyzing the issues. Ensuring that WASH is affordable to all requires policy recommendations tailored to specific target groups. The APWS needs to work with the voices of those who have been left behind.
3.Understanding “water cycle” and the sound management is particularly important even in addressing the challenges of WASH
Understanding water cycle and the sound management has become more important than ever in addressing the challenges of WASH and develop sustainable, resilient, and inclusive societies. Access to safe, affordable, and reliable drinking water and sanitation services and hygiene are basic human right. To address the invisible part of water cycle, we need to address the water governance challenge by taking basic human right approach as a means to reach the sustainable development goals. Big challenge for water managers is to bring participatory water cycle management in developing countries of Asia and the Pacific. We need to tackle the open defecation issue as part of healthy water catchments, which is still not being practiced in rural and urban areas in some countries of Asia and the Pacific.
We need to reemphasize the importance of WASH in the bigger context of water cycle and Integrated Water Resources Management.
4.The necessity of collaboration in terms of the promotion of sound water cycle
We need to examine comprehensive water management cycle and water sectors’ operation to make them more resilient to shocks. Every part of the water cycle had unique features. We therefore need to break out every part of the water cycle and examine the water governance which all stakeholders work together to address the problem and co-find the solutions. Covid-19 has highlighted need for good governance in water sectors. It is necessary to overcome vested interests and exclusionary practices.
5.Role of science
The role of science is critical as increasingly society is seeking answers in science for tackling COVID-19. However, we have also seen the science as a digital divide between different socio-economic backgrounds.
Science is a basic human right to make people and our planet sustainable. The benefits of science must reach everyone, and science should have no borders by getting rid of the artificial divides. It is necessary to promote open science precisely by taking an open and transparent process. Therefore, the UNESCO has started to promote open science by working closely with policy makers in the world including Asia and the Pacific. Unless we can solve the digital divide of scientific information, we cannot solve the issues of social inequality.
6.Investment in WASH for Greener Future
We need to triple investments in WASH as part of building back better including the response to growing infections. Only 4% of countries in the world reported that they have sufficient funding to reach their national hygiene targets. The UN reports every dollar invested in water and sanitation provides a $ 4 economic return. It makes sense to invest WASH especially for pin hygiene for building back better for resilient societies. Water financing by ODA alone cannot meet the needs. We must bring investments from private banks through local partnerships. We need to promote innovative financing from the private sectors to go beyond their responses as the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). We also need to expand South-South cooperation to go forward greener investment.
The presentation document and the recording of the 3rd APWF Webinar is available at:
The information of the past APWF webinar as well as the announcements of the future APWF webinars will be posted on the APWF website, as well as on JWF’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
(Reported by Yumiko Asayama, Manager)