MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Governments in Asia and the Pacific must continue to invest in water infrastructure in spite of the economic crisis or face fundamental threats to their economic growth and social development, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) 2009, Mr. Kuroda expressed concern that national and municipal governments would react to the economic crisis by cutting or postponing infrastructure investments, particularly in the water and wastewater management sector.

"This is actually the time to be sustaining and increasing financing to fuel infrastructure investment to be the engine of growth once again," Mr. Kuroda said.

"Stagnant investments in this sector may compromise our energy and food security, as well as our economies and environment, creating a significant new threat to both poverty reduction and economic growth."

Mr. Kuroda said that economic recessions can present opportunities, noting that a shortage of public funding for water sector infrastructure could be filled by private sector investments.

In 2004, 635 million people in the Asia-Pacific region did not have access to safe drinking water, and 1.86 billion people currently do not have access to adequate sanitation. Additionally, the region's recent strong economic growth, population pressures, and increased urbanization have combined to sharply increase water use, while pollution and climate change pose further threats to the precious resource.

ADB's Water Financing Program 2006-2010 seeks to double investments in rural and urban water services and basin water management to well over $2 billion annually. Projects approved to date under the program will provide more than 95.5 million people access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation.

The Singapore International Water Week 2009, held at the International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore from 22 to 26 June, brings together policymakers, industry leaders, experts and practitioners to address challenges in the area of water management and showcase sustainable and cost-effective solutions.

More than a dozen ADB experts will speak or participate at SIWW events.