Monday, November 21, 2011

Asia to face fresh water challenge over the next decade

Qaisar Zaman in the Nation (Pakistan): Water is a vital, finite and irreplaceable resource and is essential to all life. It brings good harvests, health, prosperity, and ecological abundance. ...

As the economic success of many Asian nations is celebrated worldwide, water-the most fundamental resource for human survival deserves immediate attention. Water stress is expected to worsen in Asia over the next decade with experts predicting as a result of factors including urbanization and population growth, increasing food production, changing consumption patterns, industrialization, water pollution (lack of control on the pollution of rivers, irresponsible construction of dams and barrages, lack of access to drinking water free from toxin or other contaminants, increased use of agro-chemicals/pesticides, storage and transportation of dangerous goods in package forms and pollution due to noxious liquid substances), and climate change etc. From disappearing lakes and dwindling rivers to military threats over shared resources, water is a cause for deep concern in many parts of the world as well.

...Scarcity as a result of land degradation is of great concern across Asia, but its linkage to food security is perhaps most acute in China and India. The secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification estimates that some 27 per cent of China’s land mass is decertified, with an average of 2,460 square kilometres of land being lost to advancing deserts each year. Nearly 400 million people live in these areas, and the economic loss to China has been estimated at around $6.5 billion a year. Other Asian countries are also encountering huge cataclysmic effects due to rapid desertification.

According to the Ministry of Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment of Afghanistan, some 40 per cent of forests have been cut down, while desertification and pollution of underground water represented other serious challenges. Deforestation in the Himalayas has also caused subsoil streams flowing into the river to dry up. Most of the degradation of forests has been caused by the timber mafias. Wastewater management has become a major challenge due to rapid urbanization such as that seen in megacities like Dhaka, Bangladesh; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Karachi.

Wastewater collected from cities is often discharged to nearby rivers, lakes or oceans with little or no treatment, which heavily contaminates water bodies around urban canters and is already causing health and environmental problems. Unfortunately poor management of water resources has led to poverty, disease, environmental degradation, and human conflict. One in three Asians lack access to safe drinking water. Half the people living in Asia and the Pacific do not have access to adequate sanitation....

At a water pump in Pakistan, shot by Mo, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

No comments: