KATHMANDU, Aug 31: Nepal, with a score of 37.3 points, is one of the top performers in the national water security index, according to a report prepared by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The new edition of the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO) 2016 released on the sidelines of World Water Week in Stockholm on Tuesday also revealed that water security in Asia and Pacific has progressed overall in the past five years, but major challenges, including overexploited groundwater, demand from rising populations, and climate variability, remain.
In terms of water security (2013-16), Nepal has a score of 28 points compared to South Asian average of 33.7 points.
Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan use about 23 million pumps with an annual energy bill of $3.78 billion for lifting water, the report states. Likewise, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan annually pump a total of about 210- 250 cubic kilometers of groundwater using about 21 million-23 million pumps, it adds.
The report also states that some 23 percent of Nepalis have access to piped water, whereas Nepal has least resilience to water-related disasters. "Among the five categories -- Hazardous, Engaged, Capable, Effective, and Model -- Nepal falls in the second category."
The report provides a snapshot of water security status of 48 of the region's countries, using latest data sets. According to these, the number of countries assessed as water insecure has dropped to 29, compared to 38 (out of 49 countries) identified in the previous report of 2013.
"Asia and Pacific remains the world's most vulnerable region to water insecurity and cannot sustain its recent economic growth without addressing this issue," said ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Bambang Susantono, who led the launch in Stockholm. "Meeting the region's socioeconomic challenges and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water will require bridging the gap in provision of water services between rich and poor in urban areas, and between rural and urban areas."
According to the report, 1.7 billion people in the Asia Pacific lack access to basic sanitation. Recent estimates suggest that by 2050, 3.4 billion people could be living in water-stressed areas in Asia and the Pacific while water demand will increase by 55 percent.
Asian Water Development Outlook 2016 assesses water security in 5 key dimensions -- household access, economic viability, urban services, restoring rivers and ecosystems, and resilience to water-related disasters. Advanced economies like Australia, Japan and New Zealand consistently lead the way, followed by countries in East Asia-led by the People's Republic of China, which has taken the biggest stride to improve water security since the previous study of 2013.
On household access to piped potable water and improved sanitation, the water security score in Asia and the Pacific, on a 20-point scale, ranges from 4.5 for South Asia to 20.0 for the advanced economies. All parts of the region improved their performance by about 2 points since 2013, except for the Pacific islands. But although the rural-urban gap has been reduced in some countries like Armenia and Thailand, the report says major disparities remain between rural and urban areas and between rich and poor on services and infrastructure for piped water supply and sanitation. South Asian countries particularly need to make considerable efforts to improve their performance in this dimension, the report states.
The second key dimension, economic water security, provides an assessment of the productive use of water to sustain economic growth in food production, industry and energy. Most of the change since 2013 has been positive with advanced countries again showing the highest scores and Pacific islands lagging, the report states. But there remains room for improvement across the region. Countries that merit strengthening current conditions are concentrated in Central Asia.
Likewise, in urban water security, East Asia has shown positive progress while South and Southeast Asia still have some way to go. Nearly half of the economies have piped water supply levels higher than 85 percent but less than 50 percent of the urban population has access to improved sanitation. In many areas, the majority of wastewater is discharged to the environment having received little to no treatment. The report says significant investment and leadership is needed to reliably meet the water needs of cities.
The fourth key dimension describes how well a country is able to manage its river basins and sustain ecosystem services. This shows a wide range of results, with the Pacific islands scoring highly due to good river health and advanced economies doing well due to strong governance. Declining river health is most evident in Bangladesh, the lower Yangtze River Basin of the PRC, Nepal, and Mekong Delta in Vietnam, the report states.
For the fifth key dimension, resilience to water-related disasters, advanced economies show the strongest performance while much of the rest of Asia and the Pacific has been weak“ "Between 1995 and 2015, there were some 2,495 water-related disasters striking Asia, killing 332,000 people and affecting a further 3.7 billion. South Asia showed the lowest resilience score, but several other countries showed strong improvement since 201”," the report added.
The report concludes that the relationship between water security and the economy can be a virtuous or a vicious-circle. "There is a strong relationship between water management and the economy, and investments in good water management can be considered as a longer term payback for increased growth and poverty reduction," the report reads, "Water-related investments can increase economic productivity and growth, while economic growth provides the resources to invest in institutions and capital-intensive water infrastructure."