Water is a vital, finite and irreplaceable resource and is essential to all life.
It brings good harvests, health, prosperity, and ecological abundance.
An organism doesnt have to be told how important water is to their existence.
An amphibian knows to lay their eggs in water or else there will be no new born.
Even flies know to lay their eggs in fresh water.
The only organism that doesnt understand the importance of water is humans, especially in industrialized countries.
Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our childrens lifetime.
As the economic success of many Asian nations is celebrated worldwide, water-the most fundamental resource for human survival deserves immediate attention.
Water stress is expected to worsen in Asia over the next decade with experts predicting as a result of factors including urbanization and population growth, increasing food production, changing consumption patterns, industrialization, water pollution (lack of control on the pollution of rivers, irresponsible construction of dams and barrages, lack of access to drinking water free from toxin or other contaminants, increased use of agro-chemicals/pesticides, storage and transportation of dangerous goods in package forms and pollution due to noxious liquid substances), and climate change etc.
From disappearing lakes and dwindling rivers to military threats over shared resources, water is a cause for deep concern in many parts of the world as well.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said to delegates at the first Asia-Pacific Water Summit held in Japan that Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that freshwater availability in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia will decrease due to climate change, particularly in large river basins.
Asian commentator Andy Mukherjee said the commodity that poses the biggest threat to long-term prosperity in Asia isnt oil, its water.
In November 2008, the US National Intelligence Council Global Trends 2025 report highlighted the significance of water scarcity on the worlds largest continent as follows: 'With water becoming more scarce in Asia and the Middle East, cooperation to manage changing water resources is likely to become more difficult within and between states.
Scarcity as a result of land degradation is of great concern across Asia, but its linkage to food security is perhaps most acute in China and India.
The secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification estimates that some 27 per cent of Chinas land mass is decertified, with an average of 2,460 square kilometres of land being lost to advancing deserts each year.
Nearly 400 million people live in these areas, and the economic loss to China has been estimated at around $6.
5 billion a year.
Other Asian countries are also encountering huge cataclysmic effects due to rapid desertification.
According to the Ministry of Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment of Afghanistan, some 40 per cent of forests have been cut down, while desertification and pollution of underground water represented other serious challenges.
Deforestation in the Himalayas has also caused subsoil streams flowing into the river to dry up.
Most of the degradation of forests has been caused by the timber mafias.
Wastewater management has become a major challenge due to rapid urbanization such as that seen in megacities like Dhaka, Bangladesh; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Karachi.
Wastewater collected from cities is often discharged to nearby rivers, lakes or oceans with little or no treatment, which heavily contaminates water bodies around urban canters and is already causing health and environmental problems.
Unfortunately poor management of water resources has led to poverty, disease, environmental degradation, and human conflict.
One in three Asians lack access to safe drinking water.
Half the people living in Asia and the Pacific do not have access to adequate sanitation.
As population explosion continues in Asia and environmental degradation worsens, water resources, like energy, are going to be much lower than the increasing demand, even if they are harnessed to the most optimum.
Given the depleting resources of water, the issues of human security, and water security as its most crucial part, are going to assume astronomical proportions.
The issues of water distribution and management are bringing not only countries of the region, but also states and regions within provinces into conflict since they are not being settled amicably within a grand framework of riparian statutes respecting upstream and downstream rights.
Thanks to its location, size and contiguous borders with other South Asian countries, it is India, in its capacity as both upper and lower riparian, that has come into conflict with most of its neighbours, except Bhutan, on the cross-border water issues.
Given an atmosphere of mistrust, an upper riparian India has serious issues to resolve with lower riparian Pakistan and Bangladesh and, despite being lower riparian, with the upper riparian Nepal.
This, however, does not mean that India is solely responsible for certain deadlocks, even though its share of responsibility may be larger than other countries which have their own physical limitations and political apprehensions.
What is, however, quite appreciable is that the countries of the subcontinent have made certain remarkable efforts to resolve their differences over water distribution through bilateral agreements.
India and Pakistan signed the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) in 1960 allocating three eastern rivers (Ravi, Sutlej and Beas) to India and three western rivers (Indus, Jehlum, Chenab) to Pakistan.
The JWT has remarkably survived the ups and downs of Indo-Pak relations, and despite wars the parties upheld the Treaty, although serious differences persist over various projects being undertaken by India over Jehlum (2 projects) and Chenab (9 projects) rivers.
Similarly, the Ganges Water-Sharing Treaty (GWST) was signed between India and Bangladesh in 1996 and resolved the dispute over Farakha Barrage, although differences continue on Bangladeshs share of water during the lean period.
Nepal and India also signed the Mahakali Treaty in 1996, but despite ratification by the Nepalese parliament, the Treaty has remained stalled.
Despite these treaties, serious differences over water sharing, water management and hydropower projects continue to spoil relations between India, on the one hand, and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, on the other.
Differences between India and Pakistan continue to create ill-will between the two on around 11 large hydroelectric projects India plans to construct, including the Baglihar Project over which Pakistan has sought the appointment of a neutral expert by the World Bank after the failure of talks.
More than the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, the issue of the waters of Jehlum and Chenab has the potential to once again provoke people in Pakistan against India and push the two countries to war.
Bangladesh, which shares 54 rivers with India as a lower riparian, has serious differences with New Delhi that hinder agreement on eight rivers, besides the continuing complaints by Dhaka over sharing of water of Ganges.
The Indian plan, which is now under review, to build a big river-linking-project that includes diversion of water from Ganges and Brahmaputra, has become yet another source of antagonism between the two countries who have not been able to sort out their differences over a whole range of issues that continue to fuel political tension which, in turn, does not allow the resolution of differences over water.
As an upper riparian, Nepal has a different relationship with India and faces many problems in constructing its dams due to opposition by the lower riparian and has serious doubts about the projects proposed by India.
Nepals mistrust, beside other factors, has been reinforced by what it perceives to be various unequal treaties starting from Sharada Dam construction (1927), 1950 Treaty and Letters of Exchange of 1950 and 1965, Koshi Agreement (1954), Gandak Agreement ((1959), Tanakpur Agreement (1991) and the Mahakali Treaty (1996).
Since 400 million people live in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna region, India needs Nepal to meet its energy needs and for management of water.
Above all, projections of scarcity of water in the future present a doomsday scenario.
There are serious differences over water-sharing within different states/provinces in India (Ravi-Beas dispute between Punjab and Haryana and Cauvery dispute among the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry) and Pakistan (water sharing dispute and construction of dams over Indus between Punjab and Sindh and also NWFP).
Rigorous exploitation of groundwater in India and Pakistan is rapidly depleting aquifers which are a cause of great concern.
Contamination of water and presence of arsenic in groundwater has become a major concern, especially, in Bangladesh and some parts of India and Pakistan.
In the north, all three rivers feeding Chinas Northern Plain are severely polluted, damaging health and limiting irrigation.
The lower reaches of the Yellow River, which feeds Chinas most important farming region, run dry for at least 200 days every year.
In the north China plain, 30 cubic kilometres more water is being pumped to the surface each year by farmers than is replaced by the rain.
As groundwater is used to produce 40% of the countrys grain, experts warn that water shortages could make the country dependent on grain imports.
Beijing predicts it would have exploited all available water supplies to the limit by 2030, and has ordering officials to prepare for worse to come as global warming and economic expansion drain lakes and rivers.
Along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, (this) could adversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s.
The IPCC the UN body that shares this years Nobel Peace Prize - says: Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding and rock avalanches from destabilized slopes and to affect water resources within the next two to three decades.
This will be followed by decreased river flows as the glaciers recede.
This is particularly worrisome as the Himalayas provide most of the water to the two most populous nations in the world China and India.
The most sacred Hindu river, the Ganges, is suffering from depletion and pollution.
The Gangotri glacier at the head of the River Ganges is retreating at a rate of 30 metres per year - experts blame climate change.
In the Philippines, there are 16 Philippine rivers and lakes that are already biologically dead during summer and only 33pc of river systems are suitable as water supply source.
Up to 58% of the countrys groundwater is now contaminated and over-exploitation has already resulted in the intrusion of salty water following the lowering of water level.
Depletion of groundwater resources has been an increasing problem in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.
In Manila, for instance, less than four per cent of the population is connected to the sewer network, with many high-income households constructing their own facilities.
Flush toilets connected to septic tanks are widely used, and often serve large housing developments.
However, sludge treatment and disposal facilities are rare, resulting in indiscriminate disposal of untreated or poorly treated effluent into the Pasig River, one of the worldss most polluted rivers.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Afghanistan has announced that a major part of the country is experiencing water scarcity.
Water is a major problem in rural and urban areas due to water scarcity, mismanagement and damaged water systems.
According to the UNEP Post-Conflict Environment Assessment report on Afghanistan, the country as a whole uses less than one-third of its potential 75,000 million cubic metres of water resources, regional differences in supply, inefficient use and wastage mean that a major part of the country experiences scarcity.
Water quality, quantity, and its guaranteed availability to all people regardless of income or social status is one of the most pressing challenges facing Afghanistan.
The water issue is becoming a serious problem, and the last four years of drought added to an already big issue.
Access to water will be a key enabler-or inhibitor-of growth in the future.
Globally we all rely on the same scarce water sources, so technologies that can increase the amount of water available and the quality and cleanliness of that water will play a pivotal role in preserving human health and driving growth.
So, how to fix the water crisis? The good news is that we are not short of opportunities.
The bad news is that many just swap one problem for another.
The simplest technical fix is to use water more efficiently and it can be best tackled by adopting the following prudent ways: Political will and commitment required to put water higher up in the regions national agendas.
The governments need to study Singapore, which despite a lack of internal water resources had improved monitoring of water consumption through water quality management and harnessed technologies in recycling water and desalination to provide continuous, high quality drinking water to its dense, urban population.
Major changes are also required in water governance practices in most Asian developing countries which are universal such as transparency and accountability.
The governments need to make plans for coping with drought and promises more spending on water-saving technology and artificial rainmaking.
Local governments must also develop policies to aid and compensate.
The governments should step up efforts to build new wastewater treatment facilities on a massive scale to reduce contamination.
Immediate action is required from the policy makers to create mass awareness of the importance of clean drinking water and proper wastewater management at domestic and governmental levels.
China has undertaken huge projects to tackle flooding in the south and drought in the north.
The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River aims to control flood waters and generate power.
The dam will provide 10% of the countrys electricity.
Pakistan should follow the footsteps of China and India in order to avoid the floods that has ruined the countrys economy and paralyzed the agricultural sector of the country.
The problem of poor sanitation is best tackled by encouraging individual householders and local community organizations to provide water sanitation projects instead of governments and aid agencies.
Governments should regulate the use of pesticides and introduce alternative environment friendly technologies so that water is not contaminated by chemicals.
There is dire need of strong regulatory legislation and economic incentives so that the environmental programme is integrated into legislation and appropriate economic incentives that attract speedy participation of people towards changing lifestyles and production patterns.
Asian countries should join hands and share latest technologies to preserve and conserve the water resources for future generations and help each other to overcome this critical issue while resolving their disputes amicably.
Water is the best of all things but major reservoirs are being seriously depleted and polluted, degrading and poisoning the surrounding ecosystems, thus threatening the health and livelihood of people who depend upon them for irrigation, drinking and industrial water.
When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.
So, high quality water in the right quantity at the right place at the right time is essential to health, recreation and economic growth.