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Forum tackles Asia's irrigation challenge

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Jan. 20 (PNA) — Experts are discussing in Metro Manila ways of meeting challenges to irrigation across Asia to help make this region water- and food-secure.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) is spearheading the discussions through its Jan. 20-22 Asian Irrigation Forum 2 where experts warned that climate change, extreme weather events, population growth, industries, energy use and other factors are increasing the pressure on water for irrigation across the region.

The discussions cited the need for Asia to further address its irrigation challenge so this region can ensure continuing agricultural production and food security.

"Irrigated agriculture still holds the cornerstone to Asia's future," ADB Pacific Department Director General Xianbin Yao said at the forum.

ADB said irrigation accounts for some 80 percent of demand for Asia's freshwater.

"Investments for water and security in the region are needed to provide farmers and farming communities a viable economic future," said ADB.

Weak governance, outdated designs of systems and limited resources are among issues hounding irrigation in Asia, it added.

For irrigation, ADB reported investing during the past years some USD 400 million to USD 500 million annually.

The challenge of meeting UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) elevated the need to ensure water availability and quality for irrigation and other purposes.

"About nine of the SDGs have strong water influence," International Water Management Institute Director General Jeremy Bird said at the forum.

He cited over-extraction of groundwater as among Asia's water issues.

In seeking ways of addressing the Asian irrigation challenge, the forum's participants target identifying scale of required investments and financing mechanisms for these.

They will also look into solutions that are practical and which feature the latest irrigation and knowledge.(PNA)

SCS/CJT/EDS

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