Sunday, February 28, 2010

Global crisis of water scarcity

Martin Khor in the Star (Malaysia): …In recent years, climate change seems to have elbowed out other environmental issues to become the No. 1 global problem. But the alarming worldwide water scarcity is an equally important issue, and an even more immediate threat. A decade ago, it was predicted that a third of the world’s population would be facing water scarcity by 2025. But this threshold has already been reached. Two billion people live in countries that are water-stressed and by 2025, two-thirds of the world population may suffer water stress, unless current trends alter.

Even more dramatic, wars will be fought over water this century, just as wars were and are still being fought over control of oil these past decades. “The global population tripled in the 20th century but water consumption went up sevenfold,” noted Maudhe Barlow of the Council of Canadians and an expert on the global water crisis in her book Blue Covenant.

…Water supply is affected by the loss of watersheds due to deforestation and soil erosion in hills and mountains. There is also a severe depletion of valuable groundwater resources as water is taken up for agriculture and industry, and is being dug from deeper and deeper sources. Mining of groundwater has caused the water-table to drop in parts of many countries including India and China, West Asia, Russia and the United States.

Agriculture uses 70% of water because industrial agriculture requires large amounts of water. It takes 3 cubic metres of water to produce a kilo of cereals, and 15 cubic metres of water to produce a kilo of beef because of the grain fed to the cows. A lot of surface water is also polluted and thus not available for human use, or if it is used, the polluted water causes health problems. Five million people die from water-borne diseases annually.

…Another issue is the fight over the systems for owning and distributing the scarce water resources. In her book, Maudhe Barlow describes the recent policies to privatise water, which until recently was under direct control of government authorities. Privatisation was first carried out in Western countries and then spread to developing countries through World Bank loans and projects….

Shot by Bernd in Japan, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

1 comment:

Chris said...

It's hard to imagine that there will be water scarcity sometimes because we also have the problem of rising water levels due to melting glaciers. It takes some thinking to reconcile the two issues.