Asian Water Development Outlook 2013

21 Mar

Now, let me begin by saying that I am a fan of composite indices, be it Human Development Index, Hunger Index or Water Poverty Index. Yes, they do sometimes add up apples and oranges, but then, they also give a composite snapshot of actual developmental outcomes in a succinct way — a way that is easy to comprehend and compare. The latest in a series of composite indices is the Asian Development Bank‘s and Asia Pacific Water Forum‘s National Water Security index published in the Asian Water Development Outlook 2013. This was released at last week’s Asia Water Week in Manila. This morning,  Wouter Arriens of ADB presented it at the ESCAP-FAO meeting on Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Bangkok  that I am attending.  And I found his presentation very interesting. So, what is this National Water Security? It is a composite index of five key dimensions, with each dimension having its own indicators. These key dimensions are:

  1. Household Water Security measured in terms of access to piped water supply, access to improved sanitation and hygiene
  2. Economic Water Security measured as agricultural, industrial and energy water security
  3. Urban Water Security measured in terms of water supply, waste water treatment and drainage
  4. Environmental Water Security measured in terms of watershed disturbance, pollution, water resource development and biotic factors
  5. Resilience to water related disasters measured in terms of exposure, vulnerability, hard and soft coping strategies

Indicators of these five key dimensions were calculated for 6 regions of the Asia Pacific: Central and West Asia, East Asia, The Pacific, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Advanced economies in Asia. Outcomes are not very surprising: the advanced economies have achieved  much higher levels of water security than most other regions, with East Asia (including China) not too far behind. What was particularly disturbing, though not surprising, is that South Asia fared poorly in terms of all five types of water securities — putting the region at the bottom of the heap. India’s score is particularly poor, it scores 1 (where 1 is minimum and 5 is maximum) in household, urban and environmental water security; 2 in resilience and 3 in economic water security. I hope this Report is taken seriously by the Indian policy makers and that it leads to introspection and action.

Well, like every methodology, I am sure, this one too is open to criticisms and possible improvements. After all, such composite indices do simplify a complex and messy reality. But, in doing so, it provides a common metrics for comparison and comparison is often a good thing. You can find the report here and I hope there will be many such reports in the future.

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