Earlier this year, panelists and presenters addressed the twin threats of climate change and diminishing resources at a seminar entitled, “Climate Risk and Resilience: Securing the Region’s Future.” The seminar, which took place at ADB’s 44th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in Hanoi, Vietnam, specifically examined how reduced access to water—combined with food scarcity, drought, and weather-related disasters—will impact the Asia-Pacific Region in the coming years. The consensus: Left unchecked, the food, water, and weather crisis could push an additional 64 million people into extreme poverty in a region that is already struggling with the highest child malnutrition rate of the world, and where, according to the World Bank, approximately half of the world’s poor reside.
The situation is, thankfully, less hopeless than it sounds—as long as steps are immediately taken to mitigate the damage. Some solutions promulgated at the seminar include:
* scaling up efforts to “climate proof” infrastructure
* managing disaster risks such as floods and droughts
* adopting regional food security strategies
Of course it’s easy to see that any solution will require a group effort—apropos considering that the pressures on water and food supplies can be attributed to a variety of sources and factors. On a global scale, we are all responsible in some sense for chronic water shortages, increased demand, and food insecurity. But when 80% of a region’s water supply is used for agricultural production, the stakes are that much higher.
“If we do not fully grasp the interrelated issues of water, food, and climate change and address them head on, we may lose the hard-won gains in our fight against poverty,” said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB’s Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development in an introduction to the discussion. “We must work together to make Asia and the Pacific more resilient to the impacts of climate change and ensure water and food security for all.”
So what do you think? Is Asia’s food and water crisis a harbinger of things to come? As an industrialized nation, our water resource management differs from the concerns and challenges faced by the developing world, but does this difference excuse us from making an effort to manage the how our actions impact water resources—and food scarcity and security—on a global scale? And what can we learn by observing how other nations manage—or mismanage—their water resources?