Viewpoint: Water Torture: Asia‑Pacific’s “WASH” Crisis in Need of Solutions
With cruel symbolism, last month a UN conference focused on water challenges concluded in Jakarta just as floods deluged parts of South Asia and India’s capital New Delhi suffered water shortages during a heatwave. But the problem of water faced in the Asia-Pacific is not only about disasters but security and sustainability. Water access and safety concerns highlight structural weaknesses that have been around for decades. The UN “Sanitation and Water for All” event was aimed at designing global-scale solutions.
The problems in Asia-Pacific alone are indeed immense. In 2019, some 346 million people in Southeast Asia, 79 percent of the entire population, relied on groundwater as their main source of drinking water. According to UNICEF, “nearly 910 million people still do not have safe sanitation services and an estimated 116 million lack basic drinking water” in East Asia alone.
And while the alarming numbers of those required to defecate in the open across Asia-Pacific has significantly decreased in most areas, the impact of this improvement is limited as treatment of wastewater remains at a low rate.
Photo courtesy of Cecilia Snyder.