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Water for Asian Cities
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The Asia-Pacific region has been known for its economic vibrancy and heady growth. Yet, its long-term future is seriously threatened by a growing water crisis in large parts of Asia. Per capita fresh water in the Asian region is among the lowest in the world. Intense competition is emerging between cities for shared water resources. Health risks continue to rise as many cities recklessly discard untreated human and hazardous wastes into fresh water bodies. The world's cities not only face the challenge of supplying safe water and adequate sanitation facilities to its residents, but must also ensure that the available water is not wasted or contaminated. An integrated approach to urban water management is essential for the social, economic and environmental sustainability of cities.

The Water for Asian Cities Programme was officially launched on 18 March 2003, during the opening plenary session on Water and Cities at the Third World Water Forum (3WWF) in Osaka, Japan. The overriding thrust of the Water for Asian Cities Programme is to support cities in Asia to meet the water and sanitation related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by enhancing capacity at city, country and regional levels, and creating an enabling environment for new investments to be channelled into the urban water and sanitation sector. The Programme primarily focuses on Pro-poor Urban Water Governance, Urban Water Demand Management, Integrated Urban Environmental Sanitation, and creation of income generation opportunities for the urban poor by involving them in the management And delivery of community-based water and sanitation services.

The programme is being implemented in three distinct phases. The first phase, which is ongoing, comprises capacity building activities aimed at developing a framework for implementation of pilot projects and strengthening governance at all levels. It will also promote measures to improve access and quality of water and sanitation services, encourage water, sanitation and hygiene education, and develop benchmarks for monitoring progress towards the achievement of the water and sanitation MDGs.

The next stage involves identifying and developing relevant investment projects, which must not only meet the needs and aspirations of targeted beneficiaries, but also be technically, economically, and financially viable and sustainable. The final phase will comprise allocation of financial resources, channeling of loans to projects, physical implementation of projects, and monitoring the continuation of policy reforms, capacity building, and strengthening of institutions.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed between UN-HABITAT and the Asian Development Bank during the launch of the programme established a firm partnership between the two institutions for the implementation of the Programme. The partnership envisages a pipeline of US$ 10 million in grants from UN-HABITAT and the ADB for the first two phases of the programme, and US$ 500 million in follow-up loans by the ADB for water and sanitation projects across Asia over a five year period
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