Thai 'water summit' opens on regional water-related challenges

More than 1,000 representatives including eight leaders from 50 countries of the Asia-Pacific region on Monday are discussing water-related issues during the Second Asia-Pacific Water Summit, focusing on measures to deal with possible water-related disasters in the future.

The eight leaders, including Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, together with the envoys have discussed key issues related to water challenges which several countries in the region are facing, especially floods that Thailand, as the host country, faced in late 2011.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra delivered a speech during the opening ceremony of the two-day summit, calling for more cooperation to prevent natural disasters, rather than taking action after the disasters occur.

"We have experience that the cost of investment and planning to prevent natural disasters will be lower than the cost of addressing problems and recovery again and again," she said.

"Therefore, we should work together, in order to promote water security by addressing the problems at its roots," she added.

The Thai premier also recalled the country's experience in the 2011 flood crisis, saying that Thailand had changed the crisis to be a chance by developing water management to prevent future flooding.

Chote Trachu, the Thai permanent secretary of natural resources and the environment, said Sunday the leaders would discuss and conclude the setting up of a fund to deal with possible natural disasters in the future.

The leaders were also expected to adopt the Chiang Mai declaration, to reiterate their commitment to jointly resolve water-related disasters, which previously caused economic and social damage, as well as loss of human life.

According to the declaration, concrete measures and initiatives should be created in order to resolve water-related problems in the long term.

"We agree to encourage the adoption of measures to reduce water pollution, improve water quality and protect wetlands, rivers and the other sources of fish water," the statement said.

In the statement, the leaders also encouraged the conclusion of disaster risk reduction in the post-2015 development agenda to reduce deaths and economic losses from floods, droughts and other natural disasters.

Yingluck's government is developing the Water Management Master Plan, allowing Thai and foreign business groups to bid for the main projects, including floodways, dykes and water retention areas.

The budget for the water management plan was set at 350 billion Baht (about $12 billion)

Thailand was originally scheduled to host the Second Water Summit in 2011 but it was postponed due to floods.