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2018 saw myriad water congresses, conferences, seminars, workshops, and the like. A great deal of talk time was chalked up. But how much effective action did we see in addressing the water crisis that has convulsed the developing world? Some action, but nowhere near enough to turn the tide back. The reality is that economies and societies continue to be hobbled by the egregious mismanagement of their water resources. Manila, home to about 16 million people, and contributing about 37% to the Philippines GDP, is the latest casualty of poor management in an otherwise unexceptionable model of public-private partnership in the developing world – large parts of the city are now subject to supply cuts of up to 50%. Elsewhere, climate change impacts remain unaddressed. Prayers to the rain gods are helpful only up to a point.


We know what got us to this sorry pass. We also know how to fix it. But we remain trapped in a quagmire of apathy, ignorance, false alibis, and ineptitude. Reducing water losses should be a priority, but we continue to abstract groundwater at dangerously unsustainable rates, and the attraction of cutting ribbons at new treatment plants grows unabated. Managing demand is seen more as a fine principle but less as an effective instrument of water management. Climate resilience is a happy buzzword that never seems to attract the reported billions of climate dollars available.


We do not have to make perfect the enemy of the good. Let us take small steps – steps to build a few district-metered areas to reduce water losses, steps to reduce demand, steps to shrink our water footprints, steps to deal with climate change – steps that will bolster our confidence in making good on our water responsibilities. Time and tide have waited for nobody. We will be foolish to believe otherwise.


Arjun Thapan

Chair, Board of Trustees, WaterLinks

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