Call for cooperation to tackle water woes

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday called for greater cooperation among Asia-Pacific countries, especially Asean member states, to address the increasing demand and rising costs of water, food and energy to meet the needs of the world population.

“Water shortages affect harvest yields, a phenomenon that has already occurred in parts of Asia,” His Majesty said in a titah while attending the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit (APWS) in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

According to a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, “His Majesty said that competition for access to water resources, especially in rivers and basins which cut across borders, can lead to costly international disputes. To successfully avoid confrontations and meet the financing needs of water infrastructure and sanitation, cooperation and reliable institutions are the way forward.

“Institutions should be encouraged to look into long-term and efficient water management and development systems.

“His Majesty believed that in Southeast Asia, institutions such as the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), allow countries to work together towards an equitable allocation of these resources. Such institutions need to be further strengthened in order to ensure their relevance and effectiveness.

“Effective measures to deal with emergency situations are an essential area of cooperation among Asean and Asia-Pacific countries.

“His Majesty said that at the recent 22nd Asean Summit, the Asean member states agreed to expedite work of the Asean Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management. Other water security issues are also priorities in Asean, as part of the Socio-Cultural Community blueprint.”

The Asean Working Group on Water Resource Management meets annually to discuss cooperative activities, share experiences and raise awareness on this matter as part of a strategic action plan on water management.

Given the urgency of this matter, His Majesty called on the relevant Asean sectoral ministers to take the necessary steps to ensure water conservation and management are a priority in their work for the benefit of the present and future generations.

His Majesty also observed that Asia is being rapidly urbanised. However, according to the Asian Water Development Outlook 2013, Southeast Asia’s performance in urban water services has been poor. This magnifies the urgency to rethink on the region’s urban water management.

Furthermore, a sizeable portion of water produced is wasted through inefficient usage.

His Majesty viewed that a community-based approach is needed, which raises awareness on the importance of conservation and can change behaviour, thereby minimising wasteful consumption because individuals have to be responsible for managing their own water resources.

His Majesty then shared that Brunei Darussalam is fortunate that its people have access to adequate clean water. Nonetheless, Brunei Darussalam has been taking steps to create greater awareness amongst its people on the importance of reducing water wastage.

In closing, His Majesty said Brunei Darussalam would be interested to share its experiences as well as to learn from countries around the region as the proper management of water resources is a shared responsibility for all.

On arrival at the International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Chiang Mai, His Majesty was greeted by Dr Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand; and Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Department of Thailand. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam then consented to join other leaders and heads of delegation for a group photo.

The morning’s plenary session began with introductory remarks and summary of technical workshops and focus area sessions by Dr Plodprasop Suraswadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of Water and Flood Management Commission of Thailand.

This was followed with the opening remarks and keynote address on “Disaster and Response: Thailand’s Action and Commitment to Water and Flood Management for the Future” by Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra.

In the titah, His Majesty also thanked Yingluck Shinawatra for the invitation to the important event and commended Thailand for hosting the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit. His Majesty also applauded His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s “Royal Initiatives on Water” which sets an excellent example on managing water resources and conservation.

His Majesty said, “Water is an essential resource for human survival. Its importance affects every aspect of life in all parts of the world. However, many parts of the world face serious challenges in ensuring the security of water resources.

“The adverse effects of climate change, which cause severe weather patterns, floods and droughts, have also brought about further challenges to water security for an increasing portion of the world population.”

His Majesty added that as human populations increase, the greater competition for trans-boundary water resources, often gives rise to political tension. “These issues in turn have serious implications on regional and global stability, affecting agri-food production, global health and general security.”

His Majesty acknowledged that studies indicate that between 2010 and 2020, the improvement of water and sanitation systems across Asia will need over $380 billion in investments, a vital undertaking that will require the involvement of all stakeholders.

His Majesty said, “What is needed are clear and practical policies in water management at the domestic, regional and global levels, that work in tandem with each other in order to ensure secure access not only to clean water, but also, builds resilience against disasters, and meets the future demands of our respective populations in a sustainable way.”

Hence, His Majesty said the forum is part of the effort to build cooperation among governments in the form of regional and international initiatives, bringing together the relevant stakeholders in addressing these issues.

Statements and speeches were also made by several leaders and other international organisations.

Upon completion of the plenary session, His Majesty consented to join other leaders for a luncheon hosted by Yingluck Shinawatra.

Accompanying His Majesty were Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman, Minister of Development, and Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II. - Borneo Bulletin (21 May 2013)