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Innovation and tech to address Asia’s water challenges

The opening of the Asia Water Forum 2018 at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters has gathered more than 800 people, including government officials, water and development professionals, and representatives from the private sector, academia, civil society and media.

According to a recent report, the forum is focusing on “Information, Innovation, and Technology”.

It is providing a platform for people to share knowledge and experiences to help ensure water security for the Asia and the Pacific region.

During the opening plenary panel on “Innovating the Future of Water”, ADB President Mr Takehiko Nakao spoke how there are about 300 million people in the APAC region that do not have improved access to water and 1.7 billion lack access to basic sanitation.

Innovations and new technologies provide the means to help ADB developing member countries advance their water management.

Water management encompasses river basin management, flood control, and water pollution as well as service delivery such as water supply, sanitation, and irrigation.

Activities such as a series of panels, leadership discussions, technical sessions and workshops are distributed over the forum’s four days.

Complementing the event is an exhibition of 48 international firms showcasing the latest water sector technologies and innovations.

Some examples are artificial intelligence (AI) applied to real time river flow forecasting, drone technology for improved irrigation, solar powered pumps, and equipment that generates water from the air.

Water demand in the region is poised to grow by more than half by 2050. This will leave up to 3.4 billion people facing water insecurity.

Moreover, disaster-related losses in Asia in 2016 totalled to US$ 87 billion, of which about 25% was connected to flooding.

Over the past 20 years, Asia has incurred half of the estimated global economic cost of water-related disasters.

The Bank’s recently approved Strategy 2030 highlights the significance of water in the context of climate change, disaster resilience, the water-food-energy nexus, rural development and food security, and liveable cities.

ADB water projects have been using the latest technologies and innovations to improve development impact.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, the water supply system was made more reliable, sustainable, and climate-resilient through a project that uses an innovative zonal approach to rehabilitate and manage urban water services.

The Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Management Investment Program Project in Fiji is reducing nonrevenue water and has expanded sanitation coverage through climate resilient supply intakes and a design-build-operate contract for management.

Satellite remote sensing is being used to quantify agriculture productivity improvement and guide investments in the irrigation sector.

Substantial work is also being done to crowd in private finance and leverage domestic finance, another important element of Strategy 2030.

A non-sovereign project in the People’s Republic of China was supported with a comprehensive lake and river pollution prevention and rehabilitation program that involves multiple environmental interlocking facilities and services.

By integrating infrastructure systems, the total project cost was reduced, and operational efficiency was improved.

Since its founding in 1966, the Bank has spent a total of US$ 45.88 billion on water projects.

Its active water sector operations amount to nearly US$ 14 billion and this is growing with another US$ 14 billion in investments being planned between now and 2020.

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