The Bill of Confusion

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A look at the utility invoices sent out to consumers in many cities makes it clear why water is an under-valued resource. The unclear language and confusing acronyms do nothing to educate or inform. Some invoices do not even specify whether they use actual readings or estimates. These pieces of paper seem to be designed to negatively impact the consumers’ trust in the water quality and their willingness to pay. Continue reading

The debates drag on

At the recent World Water Forum in Istanbul, it was good to hear some new topics being discussed such as the energy-water linkage, the need for water-related data and the impact of the financial crisis on the water sector.

But one set of debates that never seem to go away are the ‘Is water a human right?’ debate which leads to the ‘Shouldn’t water be free?’ debate which opens the floodgates for “Should water be managed by the public or private sector?” debate. Continue reading

Experts deliberate on Asian Water and Sanitation

At the Experts Consultation Meeting held in Singapore on Thursday, a gamut of issues ailing the water and sanitation sector were put forth by experts from funding organisations, water utilities, researchers, NGOs and a slew of other organisations.

Water experts are working around the clock to prepare a forward-looking document called Asian Water and Development Outlook (AWDO) which will act as a guide for policy makers of the region. AWDO will articulate the overall directions for water and sanitation activities needed to be pursued in an integrated manner by national leaders.

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Good governance is the key

“In most Asian countries, there is a separate ministry for water, yet their water is so poorly managed,” says Prof Asit Biswas, winner of Stockholm Water Prize for 2006. He contrasts this with the fact that many European countries have no separate ministry for water, and water is managed either by the Environment or Health or Agriculture Ministry. Yet these countries are doing a fine job of managing their water.The point to note is that without good governance and best practices, it doesn’t really matter whether water has a separate ministry, whether it is in the public or private sector, and whether it is centralised or decentralised. Governance has been but empty rhetoric in most of Asia with only a few islands of excellence such as Singapore, Shanghai and Phnom Penh. Continue reading