Talking Points for the Welcoming Speech by Vice President of Myanmar Chairperson of the National Water Resources Committee (NWRC) and Chairperson of the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC)

Vice President U Henry Van Thio addresses 3rd Asia-Pacific Water Summit. Photo: Myanmar News Agency
Vice President U Henry Van Thio addresses 3rd Asia-Pacific Water Summit. Photo: Myanmar News Agency

Third Asia Pacific Water Summit, 11th Dec 2017, Sedona Hotel, Yangon, Myanmar

Your Excellencies, the Heads of State and Government,
Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the National Water Resources Committee and the National Disaster Management Committee, it gives me great pleasure and honor to extend a warm welcome to you all to the 3rd Asia Pacific Water Summit.
As you know, water is life, dignity and source of income in many forms such as food production, navigation, hydropower production, industrial use, domestic use, fishery business, ecotourism business, etc. etc. – all kinds of economic activities. It also is a basis for our live existence, our cultures, and natural environment that we live in. On the other hand, water-related disasters threaten our lives, wealth and properties; cause economic losses up to the significant portion of the GDP. Our ability to achieve sustainable development goals and continuation of the decent life for all our peoples depend on how we develop, utilize, manage and conserve water and protect ourselves from water-related disasters. Water sector is particularly important and interconnected with all other sectors.
Myanmar is very fortunate to have very good rainfall, except in the central dry zone, many rivers and natural lakes, and groundwater aquifers. However, in practice, we are facing water related problems same as our fellow countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Thus we need to manage our country’s water resources effectively by integrating the key water related Ministries to come up with a collective decision-making framework for the effective and efficient water utilization of national water budget among Ministerial Level Water Users. We also consider the issues of fair benefit sharing with native populace, supporting poor States and Regions. The National Water Resources Committee (NWRC) is trying to do this enormous task with the support of the President and the State Counsellor from above and assistance from its three pillars, namely NWRC Secretariat, Hydro-Informatics Centre, and the Advisory Group.
Myanmar has frequently suffered from destructive earthquakes, water-related extreme events such as cyclones, periodic flooding, as well as droughts, which resulted in many losses and damages including landslides, with major challenges in terms of water quality control and wastewater management. Our common water challenges in the Asia-Pacific region reflect the ten session themes of the third Asia-Pacific Water Summit.  Among others, the Role of Women and Youth in IWRM theme will contribute to prepare nations to carry forward the important task of water management, development and peace to build better future.
According to the last World Economic Forum, water crises are already the third global risk that countries are most concerned about. Myanmar is not an exception to that risk. By 2030, the world is expected to have 40% more water demand than supply. By 2050, we will see 55% more demand. As for developing countries water demand will be 80% more. Myanmar is one of them and we have to prepare for 65% increased demand in 2030 and 80% increase in 2050. To achieve “Water Security”, Agriculture sector is a good place to boost water efficiency. Climate change tends to add pressure to water security: increased risks of river floods, changing courses and magnitude of cyclones, longer droughts are key factors to be considered for future integrated water resources planning, implementation and management.  However, to increase the GDP of our country we cannot reply on agriculture sector alone. We need to allocate water for key development areas as stated in National Development Plan. Hence it is important to implement IWRM.
NWRC members, key water related Ministries are working in their respective areas as well as forming small groups to tackle the common issues among them. For instance Sustainable Hydropower Development issue has been tackled by Ministry of Energy and Electricity (MOEE) and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) closely supported by International Finance Corporation (IFC). Myanmar Country Platform for International Flood Initiative (IFI) has been taken care of by Ministry of Transport and Communication (MOTC), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI), and Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MOSWRR) with continuous support from the High Level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disaster (HELP).

The NWRC continues to create enabling environment for Myanmar Water Sector and striving to make proper institutional arrangement as well as management tools. The catalyst or inspirational driver of all these movements is the Ayeyarwady River Basin Management (AIRBM) Project supported by the World Bank and implemented by the focal Ministry, the Ministry of Transport and Communication (MOTC). There is another supporting platform which is called “the Water Resources Panel”, in the similar fashion of high level panels in UN, supported the NWRC very closely with technical and financial assistance. The Myanmar Water Resources Panel (MWRP) consisted of eight Panel members from four entities, 1.The Government of Netherlands, 2.The Government of Australia, 3.The World Bank and 4. The NWRC. The Panel aims to promote the Myanmar’s water sector through NWRC and to empower the NWRC Secretariat, the Advisory Group and the Hydro-Informatics Centre in all possible practical terms including finance and political will.
An “innovative financing” mechanism has been outlined to increase the pool of financing available to the water sector by leveraging limited government’s budget with bilateral development aid and private sector financing. The reason is that privatization has dual impacts. If we rush into privatization without reforming the current water industries to increase competition and protect the environment, the sustainability of natural water resources and social justice may suffer while enjoying the increased income. Therefore financing reforms are necessary to mitigate credit risk, operational risk, and political risk. In fact, these are the major reasons for private financial institutions’ negative decision. Thus the financing reform needs to be accompanied by other policy reforms, such as strengthening regulation and institutions.  Well-managed water systems are a fundamental policy goal for all countries and can be an important driver for Sustainable Development. We have a responsibility to ensure that countries do not fall as victims of water mismanagement, but investing sustainably in water systems, so that our countries are resilient enough to face the new demands and challenges of the future.
I would like to summarize that we must ensure to pass the water leadership to the next generation together with the decent water resources. Capacity Building is essential to overcome such challenges comfortably and building of strategic alliance to improve the water sector nationally and regionally. In Myanmar, the Young Water Professionals (YWP) training programme is a flagship programme of the NWRC as a part of our water future.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Government of Japan, APWF, all development partners, organizers, volunteers, and participants of this very important Summit. I believe that the outcomes of the third Asia-Pacific Water Summit will pave the way to achieve our national goals and the Sustainable Development Goals through fulfilling the water security in the region. I wish you all well and happy, fruitful discussions today and tomorrow in order to produce meaningful “Yangon Declaration” as our common vision and common statement. This statement will assist the implementation of 2030 Agenda with Sustainable Development Goals through water security!

Thank You.


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