According to the Bank’s 1999 Annual Report, some 830 million people in developing Asia and the Pacific do not have safe drinking water. More than 2 billion lack sanitation facilities. The acute shortages cause high rates of water-borne disease and death, the Bank says.

The Bank says these meeting these needs should be one of the highest priorities for concerned governments.

According to the Report’s theme chapter, ‘Water in the 21st Century,’ freshwater must be used much more efficiently. Agriculture, for example, consumes 70% of global freshwater. Greater public awareness is needed to help create the policies, strategies and incentives to establish integrated water resource management on a global basis, stresses the Report.

It notes a yawning gap between demand and supply. For instance, in 1999, ADB lent US$1.24 billion, or a quarter of its lending, for water-related operations in the region. Yet, says the Report, the world needs US$70 billion a year just to bridge the gaps in water supply and sanitation services over the next 10 years.

The Bank says water scarcity will soon affect food security in some parts of the region, which could lead to a heightening of tensions between countries sharing the water resources of international rivers.

Many Asian cities, where 56% of the population will live by 2025, are ill equipped to

provide their growing populations with the safe water and sanitation they need. Up to one in four in the region lacks formal sanitation.

The poor are most prone to diseases caused by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation. Almost 250 million cases of water-borne disease – and 10 million deaths – are reported worldwide each year, the Bank says. Ironically, the poor, who can least afford it, spend a higher proportion of their income than others on potable water.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie