Manila: Asia is faced with a huge bill to clean up its polluted rivers and groundwater because?it?hasn’t invested enough in infrastructure for disposing pollutants, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.
In Shanghai, for example, Chinese authorities had to spend $1 billion (Rs4,040 crore) to clean the Suzhou Creek, which runs through the metropolis and used to be a health risk to residents.
Chinese officials acknowledged the clean-up costs were many times higher than the cost of preventing the pollution, the bank said.
“Failure to act on sanitation and waste water eventually comes home to roost when the problem results in a smelly, foul, turgid river that despoils a city and surrounding areas,” said Amy Leung, ADB’s urban development specialist. “But the real horror is the outbreak of typhoid and cholera caused by inadequate sanitation.”
About two billion Asians - roughly 66% of the region’s total population - lack access to adequate sanitation, such as toilets, pit latrines, septic tanks, and sewage systems, the bank said. They account for nearly three-quarters of people worldwide without such facilities.
Adverse health effects not only hit the poor the hardest, but damage entire economies with increased strain on health systems, decline in tourism income, and loss of productivity, the Manila-based lending institution said.
India, for example, is estimated to lose more than $230 million each year in tourism revenue because of perceptions of poor sanitation.
China last year announced plans to invest $125 billion in sanitation and waste water treatment, a major step forward but still inadequate for its needs, ADB said. China’s investment indicates the magnitude of funds needed in Asia for sanitation and waste water infrastructure until 2015.
The bank said it plans to invest about $1.6 billion in sanitation between now and 2010 and is looking for ways to double or triple that figure. It also has dedicated an extra $20 million in grants to help governments and utilities improve their sanitation programmes.
ADB experts were set to discuss the challenges at the World Water Week, a global conference on sanitation and other water issues in Stockholm on 12-18 August.