Shijiazhuang, China , 03 Dec 2012 -- Some 70 participants took part in a regional consultation on groundwater governance in East and South Asia and the Pacific, opening today in Shijiazhuang, China. From 3 to 5 December, high-level experts and key stakeholders from 17 countries in the region will be gathering at the Chinese Institute of Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology (IHEG) to discuss how to effectively manage groundwater as well as how to raise awareness of its importance, as these ‘below-the-surface’ water resources are key to addressing water security in the region.
Aquifer systems hold as much as 97 percent of the accessible freshwater on Earth (disregarding freshwater locked in polar ice caps). Asia and the Pacific have the world’s highest annual water withdrawal, due mainly to its geographic size, large population and intensive agricultural practices. Many countries in the region have come to rely heavily on the groundwater in their aquifers.
India and China, for example, have relied on groundwater irrigation to achieve unprecedented growth in agricultural production levels since the 1950s. To date, exploitation of these underground systems accounts for half of India’s agricultural water use and as much as two-thirds in parts of China.
Rapidly expanding urban areas and changing demand patterns associated with the improving living standards of the population are adding to the pressures on groundwater resources, while untreated urban wastewater discharge and groundwater contamination also constitute an urgent issue in the region.
The multiple challenges of access to, depletion and pollution of groundwater resources are all elements that determine water security in Asia and the Pacific. The sound governance of the region’s surface and groundwater resources – including transboundary resources - is a crucial feature of any effective water security strategy.
The Regional Consultation for East and South Asia and the Pacific will provide insights into the driving forces that might change behaviour for greater sustainability. It is the fourth in a series of regional consultations encompassing Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, Arab States, Asia (East and South) and the Pacific, and finally Northern America, Central Asia and Europe. While three regional consultations have already taken place, the fifth consultation for Northern America, Central Asia and Europe will be hosted by the Netherlands in March 2013, along with a round-table involving the private sector.
Aiming to identify regional and country challenges and experiences related to groundwater governance, these regional consultations are carried out in the framework of a project called "Groundwater Governance: a Global Framework for Action", initiated in January 2011 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) and the World Bank, with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
It is expected that, as its major outcome, the project will develop a global "Framework for Action" consisting of a set of effective governance tools for groundwater, such as policy guidelines, legislation and regulations, inspired by international best practices.
This is a joint news release from FAO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the International Hydrological Programme, the International Association of Hydrogeologists, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility.