Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2012
 
   
Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2013
 
D.2. Access to water and sanitation

The issues of access to water and sanitation are of great importance, as was recognized in 2010 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.1 This subject has also been given significant attention within the Millennium Development Goals; target 7.C is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”. By 2011, the population of the Asian and Pacific region without access to safe drinking water was halved from the 1990 level, but the sanitationrelated component of the target is still far from being achieved.

Access to improved water sources has greatly increased in the Asian and Pacific region, but, in some subregions, progress has slowed, and significant disparities between countries remain.

Access to improved water sources in the region increased from 73 per cent in 1990 to 91 per cent in 2011, and the region has already met this component of target 7.C. Between 1990 and 2011, an estimated 1.5 billion people gained access to safe drinking water – a considerable achievement for the region. Nevertheless, in 2011, there were still 360 million people lacking access to improved water sources, which represents about 46 per cent of the world’s total.

Significant progress is notable especially in East and North-East Asia, South-East Asia, and South and South-West Asia. The North and Central Asian subregion has the highest proportion of the population with access to improved water sources but has shown limited progress since 1990 and has therefore not yet achieved the Millennium Development Goal target. The case is similar in the Pacific subregion, which has recorded a decrease in the proportion of the population with access to safe drinking water. The largest improvements were in Afghanistan (5 per cent in 1991 to 61 per cent in 2011), Cambodia (31 per cent in 1990 to 67 per cent in 2011) and Viet Nam (58 per cent in 1990 to 96 per cent in 2011).

Figure D.2-1
Proportion of the total population with access to improved water sources, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011

Figure D.2-1 Proportion of the total population with access to improved water sources, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011Regional and subregional averages can hide important national and substantial deviations. For example, the overall success of the region hides the fact that, out of the 54 countries with available information, 20 had not achieved this component of the Millennium Development Goal target by 2011 (5 of which are very close to achieving it), which is reflected in the diverging trajectories between them. Among the countries that have not achieved the target are Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan.

There are significant disparities between rural and urban areas as regards the proportion of the population with access to improved water sources.

Figure D.2-2
Proportion of the urban population with access to improved water sources, Asia and the Pacific, early 1990s and 2011

Figure D.2-2 Proportion of the urban population with access to improved water sources, Asia and the Pacific, early 1990s and 2011The inequalities in access to improved water sources in the region are largely due to disparities in economic development and the processes of urbanization, though there are important variations even in more successful economies and within urban areas. In urban areas of the region, the proportion of the urban population with access to improved water sources was 97 per cent in 2011, a rate that increased steadily from 94 per cent in 1990, reflecting increased investments in water infrastructure. The most significant progress was made in urban areas of Afghanistan (where the figure rose from 14 per cent in 1991 to 85 per cent in 2011), Cambodia (which went from 48 per cent in 1990 to 90 per cent in 2011) and Timor-Leste (which had an increase from 67 per cent in 1995 to 93 per cent in 2011).

Figure D.2-3
Proportion of the rural population with access to improved water sources, Asia and the Pacific, early 1990s and 2011

Figure D.2-3 Proportion of the rural population with access to improved water sources, Asia and the Pacific, early 1990s and 2011Nevertheless, it is important to note that urbanization has not provided a uniform solution to the problem of enabling access to improved water sources for all. Several countries have actually registered a fall in access to safe drinking water in urban areas; for instance, the figure for Bangladesh declined from 87 per cent in 1990 to 85 per cent in 2011, and for Nepal from 96 per cent in 1990 to 91 per cent in 2011. This reflects persistent levels of inequality in access to, and growing pressures on, the existing infrastructure.

At the same time, access to improved water sources in rural areas of the Asian and Pacific region increased from 63 per cent in 1990 to 74 per cent in 2000 to 86 per cent in 2011. 84 per cent of people living in the region without access to safe drinking water were in rural areas.

Access to improved sanitation facilities is progressing slowly and this component of Millennium Development Goal target 7.C has not yet been met.

Progress towards meeting the need for improved sanitation has been relatively slow in the region. In 2011, more than 1.7 billion people were without access to improved sanitation facilities, which means the region remains significantly far from achieving this component of Millennium Development Goal target 7.C. Sanitation coverage must increase from 59 per cent to 68 per cent between 2011 and 2015 in order to achieve the target. At the country level, 31 out of 53 countries with data have not yet achieved the target.

Open defecation remains a major issue in reaching sanitation targets. The global proportion of people who defecate in the open decreased to 15 per cent in 2010, which still represents more than 1 billion people, of whom 626 million are found in India.2

Figure D.2-4
Proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities, world regions, 1990, 2000 and 2011

Figure D.2-4 Proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities, world regions, 1990, 2000 and 2011In South and South-West Asia, only 44 per cent of the population had access to basic sanitation in 2011; however, this is a significant improvement from 27 per cent in 1990. In 2011, nine countries in the region, including the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea, provided 100 per cent of their population with access to improved sanitation facilities.

Figure D.2-5
Proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011

Figure D.2-5 Proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011Many other countries, however, have less than 50 per cent of their population with access to improved sanitation facilities, including Cambodia (33 per cent), India (35 per cent) and Nepal (35 per cent). What is of great concern is that some countries and areas in the Pacific subregion registered a decrease in access to basic sanitation, including the Cook Islands (100 per cent in 1990 to 95 per cent in 2011), French Polynesia (99 per cent in 1990 to 97 per cent in 2011), Papua New Guinea (20 per cent in 1990 to 19 per cent in 2011) and Tonga (95 per cent in 1990 to 92 per cent in 2011).

Significant progress in access to improved sanitation facilities has been made in rural areas in the region, but more than half of the rural population still does not have access to basic sanitation.

Figure D.2-6
Proportion of the urban population with access to improved sanitation facilities, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011

Figure D.2-6 Proportion of the urban population with access to improved sanitation facilities, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011Rapid urban growth and a lack of investment in rural areas are providing many countries in the region with significant challenges in achieving their sanitation target. The proportion of the urban population in the region increased from 33 per cent in 1990 to 45 per cent in 2011. Access to improved sanitation facilities in urban areas increased from 66 per cent to 76 per cent, whereas in rural areas access increased only from 21 per cent to 46 per cent. Progress in rural areas was proportionately more significant but still lags far behind access in urban areas.

Figure D.2-7
Proportion of rural population with access to improved sanitation facilities, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011

Figure D.2-7 Proportion of rural population with access to improved sanitation facilities, Asian and Pacific subregions, 1990, 2000 and 2011High-income economies, such as Japan and the Republic of Korea, are able to provide their urban and rural populations with access to improved sanitation facilities effectively, and in both countries 100 per cent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities in 1990 and in 2011. Conversely, other countries struggle to provide their populations with equal access to improved sanitation facilities; in Cambodia access for the urban population increased from 36 per cent to 76 per cent, and for the rural population from 3 per cent to 22 per cent, between 1990 and 2011. In India, access increased from 50 per cent to 60 per cent for the urban population and from 7 per cent to 24 per cent for the rural population in the same years.

Box D.2-1
Access to water and sanitation in Bangladesh, India and Nepal differs according to wealth quintile

Research done by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund in three countries in South and South-West Asia, namely Bangladesh, India and Nepal, shows that progress in access to improved water sources and basic sanitation differs according to wealth quintile. The research concluded that the attainment made in improved sanitation in the richest quintile of the population was much higher than it was in poorer quintiles. The figure (left) shows that the two poorest quintiles of the population in Bangladesh, India and Nepal benefited only slightly from improved sanitation between 1995 and 2008. Very little progress was made in the poorest quintile, where open defecation remains largely present for 86 per cent of population. The most progress was made in the fourth quintile, and sanitation levels were kept very high in the richest quintile of the population. Wealth and income distributions identify areas most prone to the effects of poor water and sanitation access.

Sanitation coverage trends and drinking water coverage trends by wealth quintile in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, based on population-weighted averages, 1995-2008

Sanitation coverage trends and drinking water coverage trends by wealth quintile in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, based on population-weighted averages, 1995-2008 Sanitation coverage trends and drinking water coverage trends by wealth quintile in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, based on population-weighted averages, 1995-2008
Source: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update (UNICEF and WHO, 2012). Available from www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-report-2012-en.pdf.

On the other hand, as the figure (right) shows, the populations of Bangladesh, India and Nepal benefited more equally in access to safe drinking water. A strong improvement in access to safe drinking water was made across all wealth quintiles. Although most of the improvement was in access to “other improved” sources of water, such as wells and hand pumps, very little progress was made towards piped water on premises for the two poorest quintiles of the population in these countries.

Further reading

Asian Development Bank. Asian Water Development Outlook 2013: Measuring Water Security in Asia and the Pacific. Mandaluyong City, Philippines, 2013. Available from www.adb.org/publications/ asian-water-development-outlook-2013.

ESCAP. A summary of the focus area session on household water security, report from the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 19 May 2013. Available from http://apws2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/a-summary-of-focus-area-session.pdf.

ESCAP, Asian Development Bank and United Nations Development Programme. Accelerating Equitable Achievement of the MDGs: Closing Gaps in Health and Nutrition Outcomes–Asia-Pacific Regional MDG Report 2011/12. United Nations and Asian Development Bank, 2012. Available from www.unescap.org/publications/detail.asp?id=1482.

ESCAP and Korea International Cooperation Agency. Low Carbon Green Growth Roadmap for Asia and the Pacific: Turning Resource Constraints and the Climate Crisis into Economic Growth Opportunities. United Nations, 2012. Available from www.unescap.org/esd/publications/environment/lcgg-roadmap/Roadmap_FINAL_15_6_12.pdf.

United Nations. Millennium Development Goals reports. Available from www.un.org/millennium goals/reports.shtml.

WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update. UNICEF and WHO, 2012. Available from www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-report-2012-en.pdf.

Technical notes

Access to improved water sources and sanitation: rural, urban and total (percentage of rural, urban or total population)
Improved water sources: The percentage of the rural/urban/total population with access to improved water sources. Improved water sources include household water connection, public standpipe, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring, rainwater collection and bottled water (if the secondary available source is also improved). Improved sanitation: The percentage of the rural/urban/total population with access to improved sanitation. Improved sanitation refers to facilities that include flush or pour-flush toilet or latrine to: piped sewerage, septic tank or pit; a ventilated improved pit latrine; a pit latrine with slab; or a composting toilet or latrine. Aggregate calculations: Millennium Development Goal aggregation and imputation methods; weighted averages using rural, urban or total population (WPP2012) as weight.

People lacking access to improved water sources and sanitation: rural, urban and total (thousands)
The number of people lacking access to improved water and sanitation, expressed in thousands. Rural, urban and total are calculated only for economic, regional and subregional groupings. Aggregate calculations: Millennium Development Goal aggregation and imputation methods; population for each economic, regional or subregional grouping multiplied by (1 minus the percentage of the population with access to improved water or sanitation). Rural number of people is calculated as the difference between the total and the urban number of people lacking access to improved water and sanitation.

Source

Source of water and sanitation data: Millennium Indicators Database. Countries report data to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. The primary data sources used in international monitoring include nationally representative household surveys, such as multiple indicator cluster surveys, demographic and health surveys, world health surveys, living standards and measurement surveys, core welfare indicator questionnaires, Pan-Arab Project for Family Health surveys and population censuses. Data are entered into the Joint Monitoring Programme database after validation with objective criteria. Data obtained: 2 August 2013.

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1 See General Assembly resolution 64/292 of 28 July 2010 on the human right to water and sanitation.
2 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update (UNICEF and WHO, 2012). Available from www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-report-2012-en.pdf.
 
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