Sound governance crucial for sustainable water management, ESCAP chief tells South-East Asian countries

Sound governance is crucial for sustainable management of water resources threatened by pollution, natural disasters and climate change, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Dr. Noeleen Heyzer told a forum of South-East Asian countries here today.

Addressing the South-East Asia Water Ministers Forum on 4 July at the start of the five-day Singapore International Water Week, the top UN official in Asia and the Pacific said growing water scarcity is a constraint to inclusive and sustainable development in the subregion. Together with the impact of climate change, possible water shortages in the dry season could affect economic growth and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the subregion.

Held under the overarching theme of “Sustainable Water Solutions for a Changing Urban Environment”, the Forum was moderated by Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador-at-large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore.

Dr. Heyzer highlighted the importance of sound governance in water management in the context of recent disease outbreaks from contaminated water resources and water shortages caused by natural disasters and mismanagement. The growing competition for water resources calls for new water management practices that integrate a global approach and smooth the divide between urban and rural areas, she observed.

“To overcome challenges in the water sector, it is imperative for policymakers, water agencies, international organizations, financing institutions, and the civil society to understand the underlying principles of sound water management policies, supported by innovative technological solutions, especially in the face of water scarcity and climate change,” Dr. Heyzer noted.

The ESCAP chief underlined the importance of green growth and inclusive approaches, as well as the role of ESCAP as a key driver for regional cooperation in water resources management. The UN regional arm also plays a vital role as a knowledge hub on water resources management for inclusive and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, she informed.