Gracing the Asia-Pacific headquarters of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Bangkok was none other than Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Acting as the FAO’s Special Goodwill Ambassador for the Asia-Pacific, her mission was simple: fuel a fire beneath the current efforts to mitigate water scarcity and to push for enhanced water management schemes throughout the region. This gathering of minds took place on Monday, marking the Asia-Pacific World Food Day Observances.
In a world where nearly a third of its population resides in areas plagued by water stress, the need for action is urgent and immediate. “Freshwater is becoming scarce, intensifying the contention for this invaluable resource. This, in turn, threatens our ability to cater to the escalating food demands of our increasingly populated region,” remarked the Princess.
Her message was underlined by a compelling sense of resolve. “We can no longer sit idly by. Nobody should be left out. It’s time we started managing our water resources more prudently, ensuring access to everyone. We have to forge a path where we can grow more food with less water, ensuring equitable distribution of water so that everyone has access to food,” urged Princess Sirindhorn.
The need for this clarion call arises from the mounting threats facing the Asia-Pacific region told through the words of experts in water resource management. The competition for fresh water access is steepening, and it’s anticipated that it could wreak havoc on the extensive agricultural sector in the region. The ripple effect of this could disrupt consistent and affordable access to food for millions that call the region home.
Moreover, it’s noteworthy that the Asia-Pacific region accounts for a staggering 90% of global freshwater consumption in agriculture. This shares a stark contrast against the worldwide average of 75%. Additionally, three quarters of the region’s water supply stands on shaky ground with over 90% of the region’s population in the eye of an impending water crisis.
This rising demand is attributed to factors such as population and economic growth, urban sprawl, amplified requirements for water-demanding agricultural products, coupled with an unsettling decrease in freshwater supplies. This decrease is a consequence of expanding water pollution and the relentless march of climate change.
Speaking at the event, Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, outlined the situation. “We’re well aware that the survival of our freshwater resources hinges on sustainable use and access. This forms a key component of the broader 2030 sustainable development agenda,” Kim explained. “Regrettably, we’re straying further away from this path, with water scarcity accelerating at a menacing pace,” he concluded.