Kaushal Chapagain, Mukand S. Babel and Hassan Tolba Aboelnga (360info)
Sun, June 26, 2022
Tokyo, Shanghai and Delhi: bustling and exciting global cities, symbols of the rise of the new Asian century. These cities are the three largest in the world, drivers of economic growth, producing billions in economic activity for their residents and the world. But they have a problem: there is not enough fresh water available by person for their daily needs.
Freshwater availability is half the global average in Asia. Water efficiency is also among the lowest in the world and low water productivity means crop yields are low despite the relatively large amount of water supplied in agricultural production. Being able to assess the resilience of urban water supply in the face of changing conditions, such as droughts or increased demand, is key to preparing for future crises.
Many large cities are prone to water problems. Population and economic growth have led to environmental degradation. Existing water supplies simply cannot meet the growing needs. The problem is exacerbated by climate change where extreme weather events such as droughts and floods are becoming more frequent. Water security – having enough water to meet all the needs of life, irrigation and industry as well as a healthy surplus to adapt to major disasters – is in steep decline.
For example, overexploitation in Bangkok, Thailand has dramatically reduced groundwater levels, causing land subsidence. The water sources around the city are also polluted due to the direct discharge of domestic wastewater into sewers and canals. Similarly, Bangkok insufficient drainage capacity and its location in the floodplains of the Chao Phraya River make it vulnerable to flooding.
Hanoi, Vietnam is one of the fastest growing cities in terms of GDP growth, contributing more than 19% of the country’s total GDP. The repercussions of this growth are felt directly in its lakes and rivers polluted by sewage from residential and industrial areas. Madaba in Jordan is a city that lacks water. Although 98% of the city’s population has access to water, residents are often forced to resort to other sources of storage such as large reservoirs or private water vendors to meet their needs. due to irregular water supply.
Although water is an important component of Sustainable Development Goalsthe United Nations warns that we are lagging behind on most water, food and agriculture targets. To bridge the gap between science and better support planners and decision makers, practical interventions can help, such as the integrated urban water security assessment framework. It can be used to assess the overall urban water security of a city considering the driving forces that may affect it.
Researchers from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand have developed WATSATa web-based water security assessment tool that can assess where cities stand by measuring five distinct aspects of urban water security: water supply, sanitation, water productivity, water environment and water governance.
Cities that adopt new ways of managing water can improve the livelihoods of their populations and support continued growth. For example, Bangkok has adopted incentives for water management to include the treatment of wastewater at the household level before it is discharged into public water sources. Being part of Vision Bangkok 2032, the program will also monitor water chemistry in the canals and improve cleanliness to prevent disease and protect the environment. The city also aims to build large drainage tunnels for rainwater and reinforce flood defenses with reinforced concrete along the Chao Phraya River. In a nature-based approach to water management, 40% of the city will be designated open green spaces to increase forest conservation and restore ecosystems and native species.
Jordan’s water action plan includes the construction of decentralized infrastructure such as rainwater harvesting or wastewater treatment to supplement the water supply. Ffinancial or tax incentives to encourage companies to reuse treated wastewater instead of fresh water also manage demand and efficiency.
Plans to prevent loss of water supply through leaky pipes will also improve efficiency. These include monitoring tools, the installation of new measurement units and efforts to detect unauthorized use in water pipes, and improve financial viability through water tariffs. Again, nature-based solutions play a role: the plan also involves the allocation of water to restore critical ecosystems, including forests, wetlands and rivers, for better conservation. These are all concrete solutions that can be considered and adapted to the different cities of the continent.
In order to have a sustainable urban development, an efficient and effective management of water resources plays a vital role. A better understanding of the specific water needs of cities, innovative tools and technologies to predict disasters will all be essential to the survival of our cities.
Kaushal Chapagain is a PhD student in the Water Engineering and Management (WEM) program at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand. His research area includes water security, urban water resources management and the nexus between resources.
Dr Hassan Tolba Aboelnga is a researcher at TH Köln, University of Applied Sciences in Germany, with a particular interest in urban water security issues and integrated water resources management. He is vice-president of the Middle East Water Forum and sits on the management committee of the specialist groups of the International Water Association. He is Chair of the Urban Water Security Working Group and a member of the Water Security Working Group of the International Water Resources Association.
Professor Mukand S. Babel is Professor of Water Engineering and Management at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand. He leads the Climate Change Asia (CCA) initiative at AIT to catalyze capacity for action to address climate change issues in the region.
Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.