By Stuart Biggs
Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Climate change during the past 17 years caused Himalayan glaciers to melt at an unprecedented rate, restricting water supply and sanitation access for millions of people in Asia, said delegates at the Asia-Pacific Water Forum Summit in Japan.
Summit delegates from more than 30 Asian countries called on world leaders now meeting in Bali to consider the relationship between climate change and water shortages as they craft a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
At least 700 million people among Asia-Pacific's 3.7 billion population don't have access to safe and affordable water, and more than 1.9 billion don't have adequate sanitation, according to the United Nations and other agencies.
Country representatives hope to reduce those figures by half by 2015, and then to zero by 2025, according to a closing statement released by summit organizers today.
About 94 percent of Himalayan glaciers shrank from 1990 to the present, compared with about 50 percent from 1950 to 1970, according to the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. Rapid melting causes floods in the short term and water shortages in the long term.
Melting glaciers threaten water supplies for at least 1.4 billion people living near rivers that flow down from the Himalaya, including the Indus and Ganges, according to the centre's Director General Andreas Schild. A total of 45 percent of the Indus water flow is glacier water, he said.