The Asia-Pacific region has been known for its economic vibrancy and progressive advancement. Yet, the continent has to confront the reality that more than two thirds of the global poor live in Asia and the benefits of the economic growth are not equally shared. The most affected are the poor and the vulnerable. Conserving the precious water resources of our cities is undoubtedly the urgent priority. The most daunting challenge we face today comes from the spontaneously growing urban informal settlements. Hundreds of millions of our fellow citizens living in these settlements are denied of their fundamental right - the right to access safe water and basic sanitation.
The achievements in the water and sanitation sector are outstripped by the scale of the challenges in the region. While there are several challenges, there are also plenty of opportunities to successfully speed up improvements for sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Improving access to safe water, helping to provide adequate sanitation to millions of low income urban dwellers and measuring the impact of these interventions are the highest priorities for the UN-HABITAT Water and Sanitation Programme. The strategic partnership with the Asian Development Bank has facilitated additional pro-poor investments in the sector.
I am happy that the Water for Asian Cities Programme of UN-HABITAT in partnership with the Asian Development Bank and other agencies, has implemented several pro-poor initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region to meet the challenge of providing safe water and adequate sanitation. Enhancing capacities alone will not lead to improvement in access to basic services unless these are linked to follow-up investments. It is pertinent to mention that the targets for these pro-poor investments under the collaborative efforts of UN-HABITAT and ADB are met ahead of time and the investments are being doubled for the next five years. The WAC activities have also speeded up the service delivery in India and Nepal, while these are being geared up in China, Vietnam and Lao PDR. The involvement of private sector for promotion of efficient water and sanitation services is another significant move and is quite encouraging.
UN-HABITAT looks forward to a productive and concrete outcomes with commitment for sustainable development in water and sanitation in the region and attain the benefits of access to safe drinking water and the human dignity that comes with adequate sanitation. The Website initiated by the WAC Programme would immensely benefit with knowledge and activity sharing not only to the country governments and millions of practicing professionals in the Asia-Pacific region but also to all those involved around the world.