Editor's Note

Volume (Issue): Vol.3 No.2
Peer-reviewed Article

This winter edition of IRES 2002 focuses on the sustainable management of freshwater resources in Asia. Interestingly-even synergistically-the Third World Water Forum (WWF3) will be held in Japan in the cities of Kyoto, Shiga, and Osaka (16 to 23 March 2003) and attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including policymakers, researchers, government representatives, company officials, NGOs, and citizens from around the world, who will participate in a multifaceted study to find sustainable solutions to water problems. The magnitude of freshwater resource problems in the twentyfirst century and the need for adequate resource management were made clear with the adoption of Agenda 21 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The importance of integrated water resource management was further emphasized from a variety of perspectives in the Plan of Implementation and Commitments produced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in the summer of 2002.

The issue of freshwater resource management in Asia, a target of strategic studies being conducted by IGES, is particularly important. Geographically, the Asia-Pacific region is strikingly diverse, stretching from the central mountainous areas of the Asian continent to the islands in the Pacific Ocean. Its climate is also extremely varied, including temperate, tropical, and dry zones. Such great diversity, coupled with differences in regional economies, societies, and cultures, makes it impossible to look at the Asia-Pacific region from a single perspective. However, common problems do exist. This region is home to more than half of the world's people and its population continues to grow. Consisting mostly of developing countries, agriculture is the Asia-Pacific's major industry, but urbanization is rapidly progressing. If looked at from a water resource perspective, the growing population and concentration of people living in cities have led not only to the urgent problem of insufficient water supply due to increased demand for water to produce food and for use in industry, but also to the increasing seriousness of overuse of underground water and deterioration of water quality caused by industrial and city wastewater. Climate change from global warming has also had a large impact on water problems. Droughts and floods are expected as precipitation patterns change. There is also concern about environmental refugees and outbreaks of conflict over water resources. These issues are not limited to the Asia-Pacific region. Water resource problems are caused not only by natural phenomena they arise from all forms of human social and economic activity and they affect every aspect of human life, including health, food, poverty, and peace.

The concept of comprehensive water resource management has been advocated recently to contribute to solving water resource problems; human society must make a concerted effort to tackle these problems using all human and material resources and technologies available. For its part, IGES plans to launch a strategic research project in 2003 to study freshwater resource management in Asia. We sincerely hope that this IRES special edition will provide invaluable suggestions for future activities.

The first contribution, a review article by Ryutaro Hashimoto, chair of the National Steering
Committee's Third World Water Forum, provides an overview of the current status and future trends in freshwater management, and finds an encouraging trend that slowly, but steadily, a global understanding of water issues is developing.

An invited essay from Wouter Lincklaen Arriens, the lead water resources specialist with the Asian Development Bank in the Philippines, presents the issues and concerns of the water sector in Asia and the Pacific with the aim of addressing existing problems and the sustainability of water resources in the region. Dr. Shigetaka Taniyama, vice president of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) and advisor to the Japanese Association of Rural Sewerage, examines traditionally practiced forms of rice cultivation uniquely adapted to the climate of the Asian monsoon region. He counters the criticism that rice paddy cultivation is a wasteful consumer of water, pointing out how it skillfully harnesses the region's dynamic hydrologic features and that the rice paddy's unique features will need to be harnessed to make more effective use of water resources and achieve sustainable development. Professor Hidetoshi Kitawaki, from the Department of Regional Development Studies at Japan's Toyo University, describes the types of communicable diseases in relation to their transmission routes, and discusses preventive
measures for water-related and excreta-related diseases, including water supply and sanitation schemes. Mikiyasu Nakayama, from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, provides a case study of the creation and history of international collaboration in managing activities and resources in the lower Mekong River basin, and provides recommendations useful to river basin organizations worldwide. Professor Changming Liu, from the Institute of Geographical Science and Natural Resource Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Hongxing Zheng, from Beijing Normal University, detail the management of freshwater resources in China with a case study of the Yellow River basin. They point to the necessity for more efficient freshwater resources management, because water-related problems, such as frequent water shortages, serious water pollution, intensifying floods, and deterioration of the ecology and environment, have become significant obstacles to sustainable development in the region. In the final invited paper, Kabat et al. examine the relationships between climate variability and change in terms of freshwater management issues, illustrating that natural climate variability has a direct and fundamental bearing on water resources and their management, which are also likely to be strongly impacted by long-term climate change.

In the submitted essay section, Bashiru M. Koroma discusses the need for and recommends policies for local reform of community forest and fisheries management in Cambodia, where unregulated logging, slash-and-burn farming, and the demands of a growing population are posing serious threats to those resources. Along with case studies in two provinces, Koroma also takes into account policy strategies for community forest and fisheries resource management that clearly emerged from provincial and district dialogues. Kenichi Imai addresses issues and policy directions for sustainable development in Asia through trade. While intensifying competition under trade liberalization has led to an increase of the region's productivity, the increase in production has also put more stress on its environment. The challenge, identified by Imai, is to ensure that all the economies and populations of the region, particularly the poor, will be able to reap the benefits from trade liberalization, and that economic development is balanced with the environment.

In the section on current developments, Nachin Dashnyam addresses the use of renewable sources of energy in the sustainable development of Mongolia. Since the animal husbandry sector accounts for one-third of GDP and one-quarter of export revenues, and with about 40 percent of the Mongolian population without access to electricity due to the particularities of pastoral livestock farming, the utilization of renewable sources of energy, especially from photovoltaics, has significant socio-economic and environmental implications. Dipayan Dey details Bhutan's current strategy of sustainable development through reciprocity, equity, and participation. Being one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world, Bhutan shares a major responsibility of nature conservation, and although the government has already taken initiatives and framed policies to address this situation, the high population growth rate, fast pace of modernization, lack of manpower and infrastructure, and the rugged terrain of the kingdom pose uneven challenges. Besides describing the present problems and challenges, Dey looks ahead and includes recommendations for improving implementation of the country's strategy.

In the book review section, Shobhakar Dhakal reviews Strategic Environmental Assessment in Transport and Land Use Planning by Thomas B. Fischer, a book on the comparative analysis of the application of strategic environmental assessment in transport and land-use planning in selected regions of three European countries. Jan-Dirk Seiler-Hausmann reviews Environmental Policy in the European Union-Actors, Institutions and Processes, edited by Andrew Jordan, which provides a comprehensive overview of the development of a common environmental policy across borders, not only inside the E.U. but also worldwide. Naoko Matsumoto reviews World in Transition 2: New Structures for Global Environmental Policy, a proposal for a new "Earth Alliance," which is a vision for the restructuring of international environmental institutions and organizations by the German Advisory Council on Global Change. Yutaka Takahasi reviews two books: World Water Vision-Making Water Everybody's Business by William J. Cosgrove and Frank R. Rijsberman, which presents the results of the most comprehensive analysis of the world's water resources ever undertaken, and Dams and Development-A New Framework for Decision-Making by the World Commission on Dams. Finally, Axel Michaelowa reviews Climate Change: From a Fossil to a Solar Culture by Carl Amery and Hermann Scheer, a German social democrat parliamentarian. The book outlines Scheer's crusade against global climate policy, which is particularly directed against the Kyoto Mechanisms.