Responding to the Challenge of Urban Water Resources Management

Regional observance on World Water Day 2011

“Urbanization brings opportunities for more efficient water management and improved access to drinking water and sanitation. At the same time, problems are often magnified in cities, and are currently outpacing our ability to devise solutions”, the United Nations Secretary-General stated in his address to commemorate this year’s World Water Day on the theme of “Water for Cities: Responding the Urban Challenge”.
Speaking at opening of the Asia Pacific Commemoration of World Water Day, Mr. Nagesh Kumar, the Acting Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) noted that: “For Asia-Pacific, water is now recognized as a limiting factor to economic growth and inclusive and sustainable development after decades of high economic growth. Sustainable solutions to water challenges lie in the capacity of the region to implement changes as part of a new development paradigm.”

In his keynote address Mr. Chote Trachu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Royal Thai Government emphasized that: “In the increasingly complex process of socio-economic development, we must embark on changes in approaches towards sustainable water resources management, especially in dealing with water and urbanization. The Royal Thai Government also attaches its importance to water resources management of the country and has continually followed His Majesty the King’s esteemed vision and initiatives as a beacon towards sound and sustainable water resources management of the country.” Mr. Trachu also took the opportunity of the commemoration of World Water Day to announce the organization of the Second Asia-Pacific Water Summit in February 2012 in Bangkok hosted by Royal Thai Government.

This was followed by a presentation by Mr. Prapas Sangpradab, a Community Leader from Bang Bua who was among the first communities in Thailand to participate in the Baan Mankong programme of the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI). He provided an insight into the people-driven holistic upgrading process of Bang Bua community in the outskirts of Bangkok with a focus on water, sanitation and related environmental aspects. “We were a real slum before. People in our community used to say ‘the environment is not my problem, it’s someone else’s’. Now we are very strong and have many activities. What we have done is not just physical change, but social changes in our community. We have close social bonds here now. However, earning an adequate income is still difficult. We are still a poor community, and our members still face a lot of crises and trouble. But now we help each other .” Mr. Prapas said.

The official opening was followed by a field trip to Bang Bua Community, to show how local people protect their Klong and manage their own sanitation as part of this inspiring slum upgrading and community empowering process. The participants of the field visit received a warm welcome by government officials, police, army and communities. The group was greeted with jasmine garlands, Thai classical dance and a drum band from the youth in community, followed by a boat trip to release Effective Micro-organism (EM) balls and liquid into the Klong, to help fertilize the waste water at Bang Bua Bridge. Participants not only had the opportunity to partake in this ceremonial effort to help and clean the canal, but could see with their own eyes the progress Bang Bua had made and how people are looking after their community.

World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The global observance of World Water Day 2011 is hosted by the Government of South Africa in Cape Town, while ESCAP and UN-HABITAT Bangkok have highlighted this important event in the Asia and the Pacific by organizing the Asia Pacific Commemoration of World Water Day at the UN Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok on 22 March . The official opening and exhibition were attended by about 100 people, including members of the diplomatic corps, senior Thai government officials, representatives of UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).