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Speech at the Opening Ceremony of UNSGAB
  2007-06-04 09:03  

Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the
8th Meeting of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board
on Water and Sanitation and Asian Regional Dialogue

H. E. Mr. Chen Lei,Minister of Water Resources, P. R. China
Shanghai, May 31st, 2007

His Royal Highness Prince Willem Alexander,
Respected Ministers and Heads of Delegation,
Vice President of the Asian Development Bank,
Assistant Secretary-General of United Nations,
Members of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to attend the 8th Meeting of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation and Asian Regional Dialogue in Shanghai, an international metropolis of charm and vitality, at the joyful springtime of May that features twittering orioles and growing grass in the Yangtze Delta. Availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to extend, on behalf of the Chinese government and the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), China, our heartfelt congratulations on the convening of the meeting, and our warmest welcome to all members of UNSGAB that have come from afar, to ministers of Asian countries that are present here out of their busy schedules and to experts and friends that have rendered care and support to the course of water and sanitation!

Water is the source of life and the material foundation for human existence. Access to safe and clean drinking water and corresponding sanitation guarantees human health. Over the years, the UN Secretary’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), as a body that advises the UN Secretary on water and sanitation issues, has carried out effective efforts to improve drinking water and sanitation worldwide.  UNSGAB has developed and announced the Hashimoto Action Plan (HAP) that aims to help achieve the Millennium Development Goal Target on water and sanitation, convened 7 Board meetings and thereby rendered a great hand to governments and peoples of the world in their efforts to guarantee better access to water and sanitation. In the past years, members of UNSGAB have devoted themselves to the Board. Since joining UNSGAB, H. E. Mr. WANG Shucheng, my predecessor, has worked painstakingly for the Board, and particularly so in the preparatory period leading to the convening of this meeting. Hereby I would like to salute to Mr. WANG and thank him wholeheartedly. Ministry of Water Resources, China, as always, will support the UNSGAB in its work.

Asia is the most populous continent in the world. Although Asia has achieved remarkable socioeconomic development in recent years, a considerable number of countries and regions in Asia are still challenged by water shortage, pollution of water and backward sanitary conditions, which threatens people’s health, production activities and livelihood. Today, we convene the Asian Regional Dialogue on Water and Sanitation at this venue to review and summarize Asian experience of water and sanitation in recent years, explore and exchange ideas on trends of development and solution to problems with regard to water and sanitation in Asian countries, and promote implementation of HAP in Asia. Such efforts will no doubt become an important driver that facilitates the realization of MDG Target on water and sanitation in Asian countries and sustainable socioeconomic development of this region.

China is the most populous developing country in the world. While advancing towards an all-round well-off society and accelerated modernization, our country is confronted with severe water challenge. As such, the Chinese government is vigorously advocating and earnestly implementing the Scientific Outlook on Development and adheres to the philosophy of Harmony between Man and Nature. Focusing on the most direct and practical interest-oriented issues that are of the greatest concern to the public in general, we advocate rational development, efficient use, optimal distribution, scientific management, comprehensive conservation, effective protection and integrated treatment of water resources so as to promote the transformation from traditional water management to modern and sustainable water management and ensure sustainable socioeconomic development. Attaching high importance to enabling the public with safe drinking water and better sanitation, the Chinese government actively responds to the MDG Target on water and sanitation, with a solemn commitment that it will enable all Chinese people access to adequate clean water. During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) period, China successfully addressed difficult access to drinking water for 67million people. In the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) Period, China will still highlight water and sanitation. It aims at making safe drinking water available to 32million people annually, or to 160million people for the entire 5-year period. As such, in the 9-year period ranging from 2001 to 2009, China will be able to provide safe drinking water to 195million people, or 51% of the 379million population that had no access to safe drinking water in 2000. This means that China will achieve the goal put forward by the UN Millennium Declaration, i.e., halving the proportion of population without access to safe drinking water by the end of 2015, 6 years ahead of time. By 2015, China will come near to fully solving the lack of access to safe drinking water in rural areas.

Chinese government has always attached great importance to international cooperation on water and sanitation. China is one of the initiating countries that pushed the UN to define 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation. In cooperation with the UN offices resident in China and the development & cooperation organizations of foreign governments, China has carried out a series of pilot projects on water and sanitation for exploration of structures and mechanisms that will help address rural difficulty in accessing safe drinking water and for introduction and promotion of practical technologies and management approaches. At the same time, China has provided Asian and African developing countries with financial and technical assistance and shared with the latter Chinese experience related to water and sanitation. The fact that this round of Asian Regional Dialogue on Water and Sanitation is held in China exposes us to a rare opportunity whereby we may exchange ideas with  UNSGAB, with our colleagues from other Asian countries and with international organizations. The Chinese government is delighted and honored to co-host the meeting with UN and Asian Development Bank. The Ministry of Water Resources, China, has also prepared a small exhibition and a short film for the meeting, which, we hope, will enable our participants a better understanding of Chinese efforts related to water and sanitation in the short duration of this event.

It is a sincere hope of the Chinese government that we can boost exchanges and cooperation with our Asian and international colleagues regarding water and sanitation, further promote future Chinese development in this field, and eventually enable the most populous country in the world to continuously satisfy increasing demands of its people for water and sanitation. We also hope that exchanges on water and sanitation will act as a bridge to further enhance our communication and cement our friendship.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am confident that through the dialogues, discussions, explorations and exchanges at this meeting, and through close cooperation among water authorities of Asian countries, ADB and the UNSGAB, we will accelerate the improvement and upgrading of water and sanitary conditions for the general public in the Asian Region, and implement HAP in Asia at the earliest possible time.

Finally, I would like to wish the Dialogue a great success! I would also like to wish all participants an enjoyable visit to China and early realization of MDG Target on water and sanitation in the Asian Region!

Thank you!