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Asia

Water: a key sector that requires 'greening'

"Greening" according to UN Environment Program's Green Economy report launched in Nairobi earlier this week, means working toward increasing social equality while decreasing ecological scarcity and environmental risks.

Water is one of the sectors that need greening, according to UNEP's Green Economy report

Water is one of the sectors that need "greening," according to UNEP's Green Economy report

The report suggests that investing just two percent, or 1.3 trillion dollars of the global gross domestic product a year into greening sectors such as construction, energy and fishing could start a move toward a low-carbon world.

Asia is one of the regions facing massive challenges in its use of water. Nearly one billion people lack access to clean drinking water and 1.4 million children under five die every year as a result of lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation services. The report shows that at the current rate of investment progress, the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation will be missed by one billion people, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Nearly one billion people, mostly in Asia and Africa, lack access to clean drinking water

Nearly one billion people, mostly in Asia and Africa, lack access to clean drinking water

Mike Young from the University of Adelaide who is the coordinating author of the UNEP report's water segment says mismanagement of water resources is "one of the most challenging things facing the world."

"In many cities and towns people don’t have adequate sanitation. It really is something that erodes away the fundamental prospects for economic development and escaping from poverty," Young told Deutsche Welle. "Till we get that right, progress is very difficult."

Managing water resources

When sanitation services are inadequate, the costs of water-borne disease are high. The report shows that Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, for instance, lose about nine billion dollars a year because of poor sanitation. Management and investment in ecosystems is seen as essential to address water security for both people and ecosystems.

"If we mismanage water then we are going to mismanage so many things in the economy," Professor Young points out. "If we get water management wrong, we’ve got a major problem and particularly in producing the food that we need to feed ourselves."

Pavan Sukhdev says there is a significant amount of fresh water degradation

Pavan Sukhdev says there is a significant amount of fresh water degradation

In Asia, Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP's Green Economy Initiative says, there is a significant amount of degradation of fresh water.

"The first and foremost reason is that 70 percent of water is used for agriculture and the use of fresh water in agriculture is inefficient because a lot of fresh water is lost in the very old and unrepaired irrigation systems, from the point of origin to the point of use in agriculture."

It is estimated that "between a third and a half of fresh water in traditional farming system is actually lost on the way there," adds Sukhdev. "So firstly there’s a question of waste and secondly there’s a lot of pollution because of lack of sufficient regulation."

Going 'Green'

Currently, the world spends about two percent of global GDP in subsidies for unsustainable resources used in areas such as fossil fuels, agriculture, water and fisheries. The report points out this money could be used instead to finance a Green Economy transition.

Pavan Sukhdev highlights that the two largest economies - India and China - are already making use of models from the Green Economy.

A woman washing dishes in a freshwater lake, which faces an ecological disaster

A woman washing dishes in a freshwater lake that faces an ecological disaster

"In China, 40 million homes are already using solar water heaters and it saves households something like 500 dollars per year on heating bills, and of course it reduces their carbon footprint," says Sukhdev. "In India, they have created a transfer payment scheme where they pay villagers to be able to engage in water harvesting, in building up irrigation systems and planting forest patches locally."

The report suggests that greening agriculture with practices such as efficient use of water would offer a means of feeding a global population of about nine billion by 2050 without damaging nature.

Author: Sherpem Sherpa
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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