Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Asia-Pacific nations urge awareness on water issues under climate change

Xinhua (China): Global climate change has put growing pressure on water resource management in the Asia-Pacific region, regional government and organization leaders said at a water summit which ends Tuesday here. President of Republic of Nauru Ludwig Scotty addressed the threat of global warming in maintaining water security at the 1st Asia-Pacific Summit, saying that "...any water resource management scheme, no matter how carefully planned out and adhered to, will not succeed in ensuring long-term water security if it fails to address the effects of climate change."

At the two-day summit held in Beppu, Oita Prefecture of southern Japan, Scotty said that water has become more scarce in the Pacific island nation due to increased and prolonged drought periods brought on by climate change. Bhutan Prime Minister Kinzang Dorji also noted the influences to water brought by climate change in his country. "Our glaciers are rapidly receding, thereby posing grave threats to human settlements in the downstream valleys caused by events such as the glacial lake outbursts and flash floods," he said.

Micronesian President Emanuel Mori, President of Republic of Palau Tommy Esang Remengesau also highlighted the challenges the small island countries in the Pacific region faced under the global thread of climate change. "There is no more important topic than assuring an adequate and safe water supply to our region. The Summit's priority themes, water financing, water related disaster management and water for development and ecosystems, encompass the urgent water issues and needs of the region well," Remengesau said.

[C]limate change has also had various impacts on the water resources in Japan, said Hiroaki Taniguchi, vice minister of Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Tuesday at a seminar as part of the summit program. He said that rainfalls patterns have showed some changes, winter temperatures have become higher, among other water-related changes. The risks of flood thus become higher, and there may also be water shortages for the rice agriculture, Taniguchi said.

Global climate change has brought impacts in China's water resources, including sea level rise in coastal areas, glacial retreat in northwestern regions and early arrival of spring phenophase, said Hu Siyi, vice minister of Chinese Ministry of Water Resources at a speech on Monday. Hu noted that since the 20th Century, glacial coverage in western China has shrunk by 21 percent, serious affecting the functions of glacier in recharging and seasonally regulating river runoff.

Statistics show that in the Asia-Pacific region, there are still around 700 million people with no access to safe drinking water. Meanwhile, 1.9 billion people are without basic sanitation. The region is also the most vulnerable with regard to water-related disasters. Between 1960 to 2006, over 600,000 casualties were recorded in the region, accounting for over 80 percent of world casualties in floods, droughts, tsunamis and other kinds of water-related disasters.

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