Water & Energy: Lifelines for Sustainable Prosperity

(From left to right) Mr. Surapol Pattanee, Deputy Permanent Secretary ,Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Royal Thai Government, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP,  Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO Bangkok, Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education at World Water Day Commemoration. UN ESCAP Photo/Suwat Chancharoensuk

Delivered during Commemoration of World Water Day in Bangkok, Thailand

Your Excellency, Mr. Surapol Pattanee,
Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Royal Thai Government

Mr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director
UNESCO Bangkok,

Excellencies,
Development Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

I would like to warmly welcome you all to the Asia Pacific commemoration of World Water Day 2014, and to thank the Government of Thailand for co-hosting this event and UNESCO for co-organizing it with us.

As you know, the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day, in line with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992.

Each year, World Water Day highlights a different and an important aspect of fresh water. This year’s theme, "Water and Energy," is timely, as its deliberations will feed into shaping the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

The Asia-Pacific Water-Energy Nexus

Water and energy, both central to the basic needs of people, and the well-being of our planet, are lifelines to sustainable economic and social prosperity. Strongly interlinked and interdependent, the nexus between water and energy is quite strong in the Asia-Pacific region too.

This is largely because of poor and uneven access, and the cross use of the two resources for exploitation. Some of the statistics are quite startling. While 4.3 billion or so people (about 60% of the global population) live in Asia and the Pacific, people in the region only have access to 38% of the world’s fresh water. As a result, Asia Pacific has the lowest regional per capita water availability in the world. In parallel, Asia-Pacific’s energy consumption also remains lower than the global average, but is expected to rise sharply in the next three decades, to drive the required pace of regional economic growth.

Water is required to convert resources into electricity, be it through thermal, nuclear, hydro, or other sources. In turn, energy is needed at all stages of water extraction, treatment, and distribution – in agriculture, water supply and sanitation, cooling, and many other systems.

With increased population and urbanization, our demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase. International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates show that by 2035, global energy consumption will increase by 35%. Over 90% of the increased projection from non-OECD countries comes mainly from the developing countries in Asia. In the same period, water consumption by the energy sector will increase by 85%. In developing Asia, water used for energy production will increase from 157 billion cubic meter (bcm) in 2010 to 230 bcm by 2035. This is a very steep increase. As a finite resource, water is a potentially binding constraint on enhancing energy security in the region.
Unless it is strategically conserved and efficiently managed, increased use of energy leads to increased emissions of greenhouse gases, which will accelerate the negative impacts of global climate change. These impacts are primarily water-related, as evident from the growing frequency of extreme hydro-climate events, such as cyclones, floods, and droughts. These in turn have adverse social, economic, and environmental consequences.

ESCAP Helping Build Asia-Pacific Resilience

ESCAP continues to serve as a catalyst to transform Asia and the Pacific into a resilient region, and to promote sustainability and social equity. Over the period, we are proud to have been working with partners such as FAO, ADB, IUCN, and our member States. This has helped us to conducted deeper analyses of the water-energy nexus in the region.

An example is our 2013 theme study, “Building Resilience to Natural Disasters and Major Economic Crises”. Analysing the implications of crossing interlinked resource thresholds, the study has proposed a series of responses to the converging energy and water nexus. Building resilience means recognizing and integrating the true value of ecosystem services in the national economic strategies, while preparing for resource constraints and climate change by, inter alia, improving coordination and efficiencies in energy and water planning.

Another example is our partnership with the German development agency, the GIZ, to implement a project on “Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities: the Urban Nexus”. The project supports ten cities in six countries: China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, and provides a platform for regional dialogue on energy and water issues, and how to manage rapid urbanization more sustainably.

IWRM & Sustainable Energy for All

ESCAP is also supporting the accelerated implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) urging, inter alia, the inclusion of IWRM, as ‘low hanging fruits’, in national development plans, enhanced data and knowledge sharing, technology transfer, closer private partnership, and allocating the necessary resources to improve household water management and sanitation services.

Finally, in regional energy planning, ESCAP more recently sponsored the 2013 Asian and Pacific Energy Forum in Vladivostok, to facilitate implementation of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative in Asia and the Pacific. This was done with the support of our colleagues from the Russian Federation. This aims to ensure enhanced energy security and access at all levels – from the regional to national, and even at the household level.

Conclusion

To conclude, the growing challenges in Asia and the Pacific of the water-energy nexus require innovative and pragmatic solutions, application of the right technologies, and supportive economic enablers. These elements need to be integrated into national policies for more efficient and effective energy and water services.

As we celebrate World Water Day today, we should remember that saving water is saving energy – and that, conversely, saving energy is saving water. Together they are two of the most critical key resources for building the sustainable future we want.

Our focus on these areas will enhance our deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda.

I thank you.