Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to address the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit.
Water is a critical natural resource and one of our most precious public goods, indispensable for human development, health and wellbeing.
However, as the population and the economies of Asia and the Pacific continue to grow, we are becoming even more water-stressed: By 2030 our region is projected to have a 40 per cent supply-demand deficit, threatening human health, agricultural production and economies.
Despite significant progress in recent decades, nearly half of the rural population in the region has no access to improved sanitation, while our growing urban population, expected to reach 3.5 billion by 2050, is driving massive demand for water and wastewater treatment systems.
In water-stressed cities across our region, inefficient or excessive groundwater withdrawals lead to periods of insufficient water for residents.
The time to act to protect our vital resources is now.
We must therefore accelerate actions to ensure safe drinking water and access to sanitation and hygiene if we are to realize the Goals by 2030.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of clean water and water, sanitation and hygiene (or WASH) facilities, and once again made visible the water resource challenges experienced by vulnerable groups.
The lessons from the pandemic should re-focus the attention of policymakers on long-term commitments to strengthening WASH and water infrastructure and target investments accordingly.
We must also ensure that post-pandemic recoveries protect water-related ecosystems and that Integrated Water Resource Management becomes the norm in all locations.
Integrated solutions will also create synergies with climate goals, such as agriculture and energy, which are dependent upon a reliable supply of fresh water.
2018-2028 is the UN International Decade for Action- Water for Sustainable Development. This important Summit can help build momentum and exchange solutions that can lead to accelerated actions across our region.
As we talk about our water resources, we must also highlight the challenges of plastic pollution.
Ninety per cent of all river-borne plastic that flows to the ocean comes from just ten rivers, eight of which are in Asia.
To protect our water resources and ocean, we must end plastic pollution into our waterways by adopting ambitious policies, engaging citizens and the private sector, and deploying new technologies to monitor and respond to plastic pollution hotspots.
I am encouraged that countries adopted a resolution at the recent United Nations Environment Assembly agreeing to negotiate a legally binding agreement by 2024 to end plastic pollution.
Leadership from the Asia-Pacific region, contributed to the political will to address this global problem.
I am confident that, working together, we can protect our vital natural resources and provide clean water to everyone throughout our region, leaving no one and no place behind.
I wish you all a successful summit and thank you for your attention.