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Asia-Pacific region: Dynamic area with water challenges
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Water is a critical material foundation for sustainable social and economic development and Asia-Pacific region is a dynamic area with huge development potentials and water challenges, said Chinese Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei on Friday morning in Istanbul at the 5th World Water Forum.

"Water is the life line for human survival and development, also a critical material foundation for sustainable social and economic development," said the Chinese minister on the "Asia- Pacific Day" of the forum, the largest water-related event in the world.

The session, attended by Asia-Pacific Water Forum President Yoshiro Mori, former Prime Minister of Japan, and other high-level officials from the region, aims to keep water issues high on the agenda of regional leaders and facilitate dialogue and exchange of experiences on policies and solutions.

Chen said he is delighted to attend the Asian-Pacific Day where he can exchange experiences, share outcomes and conduct discussions with colleagues from other countries in conquering water problems and promoting sustainable development in the region.

The Asian-Pacific region is a "dynamic area with huge development potentials," he said, adding that "for many years, countries in the region have been committed to addressing water problems, and "actively exploring and developing economic development patterns tailored to their respective national situations."

However, the region also faces many water challenges, such as " severe water shortage problem, limited access to water and sanitation, poor management and development of water resources, and difficulty in financing water projects," according to the Chinese minister.

Population of the region occupies 61 percent of the world total, whereas its water resources only account for one third of the world total. Furthermore, rapid population growth reducing water resources per capita.

Approximately 560 million rural people in the region do not have access to safe drinking water. From 1980 to 2006, water disasters in Asia Pacific resulted in 600,000 deaths, accounting for 80 percent of the world total.

Chen said effective mitigation of losses from water hazards and sustainable utilization of water resources are "not only issues of common concern to us all but also pressing tasks for all Asian- Pacific countries."

In addition, He said the Chinese government is willing to enhance dialogues, exchanges and cooperation in the Asian-Pacific region in the water field to jointly promote future development of the water sector in this region and advance harmony of the world and sustainable social and economic development of the region.

A Chinese delegation of officials and water experts, headed by Chen Lei, attended the 5th edition of the World Water Forum, which attracts some 25,000 participants from all over the world, including governments, non-profit groups, institutions and individuals.

The forum kicked off Monday in the largest Turkish city of Istanbul with the theme of "Bridging Divides for Water," to promote ideas about conserving, managing and supplying water.

(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2009)

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