Water Environment Partnership in Asia (WEPA) Third Phase Final Report

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Asia is home to 60% of the world’s total population, with further population growth forecast in the future. In addition, the region accounts for 30% of global GDP and by 2050 this share is expected to exceed 50%, making Asia the region with the most dynamic growth in the world. Against this background, there is a worsening impact on the environment, and this is causing serious problems. Rapid population growth, extreme population concentration in urban areas, unregulated industrial development as well as changes in consumption patterns including a shift to foods such as meat that require more
water to produce – all these factors put pressure on water resources both in quality and quantity, and there is a risk that this will become an obstacle for sustainable development. There is also concern that climate change will further exacerbate the situation. Building on the outcomes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the UN
member states in 2015. Targets on water environment were proposed under SDG 6 and emphasize not only the importance of on-site sanitation facilities but also the entire water cycle including management of water, wastewater and biological resources. However, it is not easy for countries in Asia to achieve the targets set out in SDG 6. For example, according to the report by UN Water in 2017, in South and Southeast Asia, between roughly 60 and 80% of wastewater is still being discharged without treatment. A WEPA survey revealed that the sources of water pollution in Asia are diverse, such as domestic
wastewater, industrial wastewater, and agricultural wastewater, and the situation differs greatly depending on the country and watershed. A great deal of time and expense is required to restore the water environment once it has been polluted. Therefore it is absolutely crucial to manage the water environment appropriately before recovery becomes too difficult. Water environment governance involves a
wide range of actors including related officers in central and local governments, water experts, the private sector, NGOs and citizens. Among these actors, officials in central government play a vital role as they have primary responsibility in planning and implementing the water environment management policy in each country. It is essential to improve their capacity to ensure that appropriate water environment management can be put in place. What is required for policymaking suited to each country’s situation is proper information on water environment management systems and technologies, but unfortunately this information is often lacking in developing Asian countries. Recognising this, the Ministry of the Environment, Japan proposed an initiative called the Water Environment Partnership in Asia (WEPA) in 2004, with the aim of strengthening water environment governance in the Asian region. WEPA conducts its activities on a 5-year cycle. Utilising the knowledge accumulated and the human network developed in the fi rst phase, the second phase of WEPA focused on knowledge-sharing to find solutions to water environment problems. Subsequently, in the third phase which began in 2014, WEPA continued to conduct knowledge-sharing and also made progress with a new scheme called WEPA Action Programs. These are developed and implemented by a WEPA partner country with the aim of solving specifi c issues and
thereby improving the water environment in the country. WEPA supports the planning and implementation of actions proactively carried out by each of the WEPA partner countries. We have now reached the end of the third phase of WEPA, and as we refl ect on the outcomes and experiences of the activities carried out so far, I hope that WEPA will continue to develop to further strengthen and improve water environment governance in the Asian region.