Water Investments Flowing for Asia's Urban Poor

MANILA, Philippines, February 13, 2007 (ENS) - The Asian Development Bank has decided to continue its partnership with UN-HABITAT to increase investments in safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for some of Asia’s poorest urban areas.

The partnership, which carries the Water in Asian Cities Program, will extend to 2011 with each organization committing $10 million in grant funds - twice the amount committed in 2003 when the two agencies began this collaboration.

"Over the next five years, ADB expects to invest about $1 billion in urban water supply and sanitation. The investments will be part of ADB’s Water Financing Program 2006-2010 to boost investments in the water sector to well over $2 billion a year," said Woochong Um, a director in the Asian Development Bank’s Regional and Sustainable Development Department.

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Polluted water runs past homes in a Saigon slum. (Photo courtesy PVV)
The partnership was established to improve water supply and sanitation services to the urban poor in Asia, build the capacity of Asian cities to secure and manage investments, and to help the region meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation.

During the first phase of the partnership, between 2003 and 2006, the two organizations collaborated to build capacity, prepare projects and raise investments.

For instance, the introduction of regional autonomy in Indonesia 2001 transferred authority from the central government to regional governments at the district and city level for all aspects of local infrastructure and service delivery including planning, provision, financing, and management of water supply and sanitation.

But many of the more than 300 water utilities across Indonesia are hard pressed to provide minimum service to consumers and are connecting only about 34 percent of the population in their service areas to piped water supply.

In addition, the lack of sanitation services requires urgent attention, including rehabilitation and extension of wastewater collection and treatment systems, and priority drainage-urban flood control leading to improved urban environments, especially in the low income areas.

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Boy enjoys a drink on Flores Island in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province. (Photo courtesy Government of Australia)
To help resolve these issues, the Asian Development Bank is contributing US$1.5 million and UN-Habitat US$2 million to Indonesia's Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project this year. In addition, the bank has invested US$80 million in the project.

"The development community has been continuously calling for greater collaboration among agencies in order to achieve development more efficiently and effectively," said Bindu Lohani, director general of the Regional and Sustainable Development Department. You have such a collaboration here between ADB and UN-HABITAT and in a sector that desperately needs it - urban sanitation."

To help achieve the Millenium Development Goal Water Targets, the bank is implementing a pilot project that demonstrates speedy delivery of piped water supply to urban or peri-urban areas on the periphery of cities in India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Small-scale water providers are being tapped to expedite water delivery to consumers. UN-HABITAT is implementing the pilot activities in India.

As part of the partnership, investments will be increased in urban water and sustainable sanitation, including environmentally sound solid waste management through reuse and recycling and sound waste disposal and treatment and extending wastes service coverage to the poorer neighborhoods, as well as slum upgrading and urban renewal.

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Lack of a toilet in the home means that millions of people must walk to unhealthy and sometimes unsafe locations to relieve themselves. India, 2005. (Photo courtesy UN-HABITAT)
There will be a focus on human resource development and capacity building through UN-HABITAT programs, such as Water for Asian Cities and Mekong Water and Sanitation, which the bank supports with investments and technical knowledge.

Currently in the development stage, the Mekong program will focus on selected secondary cities in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Vietnam and China's Yunnan province. In addition to improving access to water supply and sanitation services, the program aims to generate water investments and promote sector reforms.

In addition, the partnership will support knowledge sharing, particularly information about the sanitation sector and contributing to the upcoming Global Report on Water and Sanitation in Asian Cities.

The $10 million in grants from ADB will be administered as technical assistance to countries that have prioritized urban water investments in their country partnership strategies with the bank.

UN-HABITAT’s $10 million in grants will be administered through its Water and Sanitation Trust Fund.

These grants will be counted as commitments toward the Asian Development Bank’s new Water Financing Partnership Facility, which aims to raise $100 million in grants to support various programs and loans with capacity building and knowledge sharing activities.

Bank officials say the ongoing and pipelined ADB investments under this program now stand at US$570 million, exceeding the initial target of US$500 million.