Progress on water-related challenges as framed in the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) on Clean Water and Sanitation will be an integral part of delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development in the Asia Pacific and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Water is indeed inseparably linked to various sectors of human society, serving as a common basis that runs through almost all sustainable development goals. To cite only a few examples, Clean Water and Sanitation is a basic requirement for human health and access to water a requirement for poverty alleviation. Water is also a vital input to agricultural production, a major source of livelihood in the region and to energy production, as water is used for hydropower plants and as cooling agent in powerplants.
Asia and the Pacific faces serious water-related challenges:
- It is rapidly urbanizing region, yet many cities face vulnerabilities due to outdated water supply systems and inadequate infrastructure;
- Access to improved sanitation is highly unequal between urban and rural areas – a gap that was approximately 30% in 2015;
- Supply in fresh and clean water is affected by inadequate waste water management, with 80-90 % of urban waste water being discharged in fresh water reservoirs;
To address these challenges, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) provides support to its member States in the context of the recently developed regional road map for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ESCAP is promoting integrated water management and water efficiency approaches and provides support on leveraging impactful investments and financing for water-based economies. ESCAP also supports monitoring of SDG 6 in Asia and the Pacific as well as integrated approaches for SDG planning, with a recently developed methodological tool focusing on SDG 6 integration with other SDGs.
In addition, ESCAP regionally supports UN-Water, which coordinates the efforts of UN entities and international organizations working on water and sanitation issues globally, and is in particular committed to make the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028” a success in Asia and the Pacific.
In order to support follow-up and review of the SDGs, ESCAP produces reports and hosts the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD). As an annual inclusive and intergovernmental forum, the APFSD supports the Asia-Pacific region in preparations for the worldwide High-level Political Forum (HLPF) by enhancing capacity, capturing and sharing regional perspectives and supporting the review of progress toward implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Every year, these forums focus on a different set of SDGs under a given theme. In 2018, the theme is “Transformations towards sustainable and resilient societies” and focuses on SDG 6-, SDG 7- Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG 11- Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 12- Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 15- Life on Land, and SDG 17- Partnership for the Goals. A goal profiles have been developed for SDG 6 in partnership with UNESCO, ILO, and UN Environment, providing a status of the regional implementation of SDG 6 and associated challenges, promising innovations and best practices as well as priority for action to make further progress on SDG 6 in Asia and the Pacific.
In addition, ESCAP supports the promotion of global UN-Water knowledge products for SDG 6 reporting and providing policy relevant messages aiming at accelerating the implementation of SDG6.
UN-Water coordinates the efforts of UN entities- the UN-Water Members - and international organizations - the UN-Water Partners- working on water-related issues including sanitation and natural disasters, in order to maximize coherence and impact.
As part of its regional role in UN-Water, ESCAP hosts this Regional Knowledge Hub, which supports the sharing of UN-Water and UN Members and Partners’ publications on water of relevance to Asia and the Pacific, and supports awareness raising of key UN-Water events and initiatives.
World Water Day: the day focuses attention on the importance of universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries;
UN Toilet Day: organised to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis;
The World Water Forum 8: organized by the World Water Council, a water-related event aimed to discuss global water-related topics.
UN Decade on Water for Sustainable Development: established in support of the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 and other sustainable development-related goals. Amongst the key objectives is a greater focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources, as well as on continued cooperation and partnership at all levels.
Nature-Based Solutions for Water, the New WWDR 2018: soon to be released report informing policy and decision makers about the potential of nature-based solutions to water issues.
SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018: The Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation reviews the global progress made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It builds on the latest data available for the 11 SDG 6 global indicators and will inform the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development during its in-depth review of SDG 6 in July 2018. The report represents a joint position from the United Nations family.
Operating as a user-friendly online platform, UN-Water Activity Information System (UNW-AIS) offers UN-Water, its members and partners, and the broader global audience easily accessible information on water-related projects and learning opportunities.
The joint WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme is affiliated to UN-Water and was established in 1990. It builds on earlier monitoring activities carried out by WHO since the 1960s. The JMP’s objectives are to provide regular global reports on drinking-water and sanitation coverage to facilitate sector planning and management, to support countries in their efforts to improve their monitoring systems, and to provide information for advocacy.
Since 2016, over fifty per cent of the population of ESCAP member States live in ever expanding urban areas, creating a huge demand for water and wastewater treatment systems. Additionally, over ninety percent of natural disasters are water related (draught and floods), and are expected to worsen as the effects of climate change continue to amplify. To help cities achieve SDG 6 in Asia and the Pacific from an urban perspective, ESCAP is promoting integrated water solutions as a Governing Council Member of the Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF), eco-efficient and climate resilient water infrastructure, and financing to support the water cycle.
Shifting towards water-hazard resilient infrastructure allows cities to provide safe and adequate water supply and sanitation services. These services are based on effective water-related ecosystems, water use efficiency, and a greater urban resilience to water-related disasters. Examples of water-hazard resilient infrastructure in Asia-Pacific include: rainwater catchment systems, decentralized wastewater treatment systems (DEWATS, explained further in the DEWATS e-learning courses, sponge cities, etc. Planning of the urban water cycle could be organized by mimicking the long-term, medium-term and short-term recovery loops through investment intervention points (in power point linked below, see Investment Points SDG 6.1-6.b in figure 5) to attain respective SDG 6 targets. Water-hazard resilient infrastructure can be examined further in the corresponding e-learning course.
Click the picture below to visualize the urban water cycle management animation.
 APWF also serves as the regional coordinator of preparations to the World Water Forum through provision of the coordination and facilitation platform for water security in the Asia-Pacific.
Meeting the sustainable development goal 6 (SDG 6) on Clean Water and Sanitation of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires revision of the financing and investment needs. Innovative financing and impact investment strategies for water and sanitation that produce social and environmental benefits are required. These impact investment strategies would have to be based on strengthened collaboration and partnerships between the public and private sectors- they are currently split eighty-twenty between the public and the private sector respectively- to maximise efficiency.
To address these challenges, ESCAP promotes a new financing paradigm strengthening public-public partnerships (PUPs) and encouraging public-private partnerships (PPP) through promotion of policies to incentivize collaborative partnerships between sectors.
In order to support a coordinated regional approach for finance for investments in water and sanitation and associated infrastructural needs, ESCAP facilitates the development of sub-regional/ regional water partnerships through the work of the Asia-Pacific Water Forum. In particular, ESCAP’s interventions focus on water markets and on promoting specific financial policy instruments such as water bonds, national water pricing schemes and reforms, as well as payment for ecosystems services. In addition, ESCAP facilitates the work of intergovernmental platforms (such as MEK-WATSAN in 2013-15, WEPA and AWAP (Asia Wastewater Partnership) in 2018) in the mobilization of funding for country-based water and sanitation projects
ESCAP provides support on integrated SDG planning and has in particular developed a methodology supporting integration of SDG 6 with other SDGs. Please refer to the dedicated thematic area on “Integration of the SDGs into national planning” for further information.
Another big focus of ESCAP is supporting the management of the “Water, Energy, Food” nexus in urban contexts. The nexus approaches recognises the inextricable links between water security, energy security and food security. Water is indeed as critical input to agricultural production and to energy production, for the production of hydropower but also as a cooling agent in powerplants.
Tools and Methodologies
Given the interconnected nature of water and all aspects of life, decision makers and policy developers will need to approach issues with water and sustainable development with innovative and holistic strategies. To stimulate innovation under the umbrella of water for sustainable development, ESCAP members have compiled a list of relevant knowledge publications, event opportunities, and courses in the section below. Such topics as the water-energy-food nexus, waste-water management and effective strategies to tackle water and sanitation in Asia-Pacific can be explored and utilized to enhance strategies to meet the SDGs, particularly SDG 6.