ADB Urges Asian Gov'ts to Open Water Distribution

Article excerpt

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) urged governments to adopt policies that would encourage private investment in water distribution as it said the scarcity of potable water in Asia had reached serious proportions.

The Manila-based lending agency said in its 1999 annual report, released on Wednesday, that private investments in water distribution have been embroiled in politics, while subsidies diminish their financial viability.

This is despite the urgent need for fair and productive water distribution, as the scarcity already constrains food supply, causes diseases, and threatens international conflicts, it said.

The ADB said the world needed $70 billion a year to bridge water supply gaps, and while governments could not afford large projects, private investments were being constrained by political objectives in granting concessions. It has no official figure on the proportion of the $70 billion that is needed for Asia, but economists gave a rough estimate of two-thirds the amount.

"Privatisation of urban water supplies has not so far achieved a remarkably high success rate," the ADB said in the report, which has "Water in the 21st Century" as the main theme.

"Independent regulatory bodies are needed to reduce political interference and ensure accountable management and efficient delivery of water. …