Over 600 m people in Asia may not have clean drinking water

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Old 05-Jul-2012
Over 600 m people in Asia may not have clean drinking water

Rapid urbanisation may lead to 605 million people in Asia going without improved drinking water sources by 2015, says a new report by Asian Development Bank and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore.

The report, which cites best practices in eight Asian cities, including Jamshedpur in India, advocates a public-private partnership approach to water supply and flags non-revenue losses and poor governance as major challenges for efficient water management.

Apart from protecting the long-term value of water resources, a PPP approach can also open doors to external expertise and finance from the private sector, it says.

In its case studies, the report found that many service provider utilities suffered from chronic mismanagement and poor governance. "The current level of non-revenue water, as high as 60 per cent, is unacceptable in the face of these challenges," it says.

The report lauds the example of Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company in India, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Steel, which within a few years of its formation in 2004, "achieved substantial improvements in service delivery and operational efficiency."

"It has evolved into a one-stop, integrated utilities provider in a range of areas, including water and wastewater management, construction, municipal solid waste management, power, and integrated facility management," it adds.

Among the eight cities flagged for best practices, the report highlights the success of three -- Colombo in Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Shenzhen in China.

In Colombo, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board has achieved over 99 per cent of metered water connections and continuous water supply in its service areas. While efficiency improvements were still badly needed, considering that levels of non-revenue water were still high, the ADB report cited low water tariffs as a major constraint in generating revenue and recovering operation and maintenance costs.

In Kuala Lumpur, which has achieved full coverage for safe drinking water and continuous water supply with minimal interruptions, too, the Government is now pursuing a new PPP model, in which it shares the financial responsibility of infrastructure development with the private sector.

Interestingly, Shenzhen in China has managed to lead in the reform of local water management within the Government framework. "It has established a relatively complete legal system for water management and is one of the first cities in the country to combine all water-related government functions into one government agency, the Shenzhen Municipal Water Affairs Bureau," it adds.

The report called upon cities in the developing world to make their water systems more efficient and effective by reducing water losses, gradually increasing water tariffs, improving revenue collection, increasing staff productivity, and securing safe and reliable water supplies.

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