March 22nd 2018 marks the 25th Annual World Water Day which aims to highlight the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of water resources.
Global water use has increased six fold over the past century and continues to grow at a rate of about one percent per year.
Water challenges are increasing in severity and frequency due to environmental damage and climate change; the threat of floods, droughts and pollution are all worsened by neglecting nature.
The UN estimates that by 2050 5 billion people could suffer water shortages and Asia is likely to be the worst affected, with 74% of those predicted to be affected by water scarcity living in Asia.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO commented:
“We need new solutions in managing water resources so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change. If we do nothing, some five billion people will be living in areas with poor access to water by 2050”
Water scarcity is likely to have a profound impact on food production and Asian farmers are already reporting difficulty in finding fresh water sources.
Asia is currently home to over half of the world’s hungry people. Water shortages pose a significant risk, if food stocks run low countries will need to import food from other regions, significantly increasing the price of food, making it too expensive for the poorest, and most vulnerable, populations to afford.
Agricultural production and food security in Asia is also threatened by rising sea levels as this increases salt concentration in rivers, leaving thousands of hectares of land vulnerable as rice is a strictly fresh water crop.
In order to keep up with demand Asia will need to increase rice production by 50% by 2030.
However, Asia is also one of the most at risk regions from flooding and extreme weather events such as storms.
19 of the 25 most at risk cities to sea level rise are located in Asia, 7 of which are in the Philippines alone. In addition, 13 of the top 20 cities for projected growth in flood damage by 2050 are in Asia.
In addition to rising sea levels, Asia is vulnerable to flooding due to the increasing frequency and intensity of storms in the region. The most recent data suggests that annual precipitation will increase by up to 50% across most land areas of Asia.
Between 1996 and 2015, six of the world’s ten most affected countries by extreme weather, in terms of both fatalities and economic losses, were in Asia: Myanmar, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Viet Nam, Pakistan, and Thailand.
Climate models project an upward trend in annual mean precipitation over most Asian land areas toward the end of the 21st century, with most land areas experiencing an increase in rainfall of up to 50% due to more intense typhoons and tropical storms.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that a minimum of $59 billion is needed for investments in water supply and $71 billion for improved sanitation to cover basic needs in the region.
If you’d like to stay informed on the latest updates in aid and development, please sign up for the AIDF newsletter
Image credit: www.besra.com