21 October 2008

Water refugees of the thirsty planet

Last week, I came across two interesting posts on water (1 2). There can be no counter argument to the fact that we should facilitate hygiene & sanitation through proper and judicious utilization of the available water. But, what about the availability aspect? Though, people living in places like Kathmandu, are well aware of the water problem in their daily lives; how is the global situation? Lets share some of the facts regarding water.

There can not be any doubt that water is a key element in our life. It is fundamental to all human activities. Water grows the food we eat, generates the energy that supports our modern economies and maintains the ecological services on which we all depend. Yet billions of people lack access to safe, clean, adequate water which, is the most basic human right. The majority of these people are living in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, the poorest in the world.

Water covers about two-thirds of the Earth's surface. If so, then why we often hear about water problems around the globe? It is because most of the available water is too salty for use. Only 2.5% of the world's water is not salty, out of which, another two-thirds is locked up in the icecaps and glaciers. Another important point is: out of whatever water is available, nearly one-fifth is in remote areas, and much of the rest arrives at the wrong time and place, as monsoons and floods.

(Photo courtesy: World Prout assembly)
The researches show that water crisis & global warming are the two most prominent worrying factors for the world in this new millennium. Water availability and distribution are threatened all around the world. Industrial and agriculture activities cause heavy water consumption. Precipitation patterns are changing locations and are becoming heavier, briefer and less frequent around the globe. Drought is increasing as precipitation over land is getting decreased, while evaporation is becoming more thanks to the pollution and global warming issues. Energy production is another drain, threatening to tap out an already stressed resource. Pollution is also a big threat in making the available water unsafe. Meanwhile, world population is expected to grow from six to nine billion by 2050. In addition to this, people's desire for better living standards is also not doing any good to the cause. Add it all up, and the world appears to be facing an unsustainable thirst for water.

Water scarcity has been on the agendas for some time, but it seems that despite some daunting figures, the alarm bells are just not loud enough. Organizations like world water forum discuss about the issue, a short time media hype is created; but, gradually everything settles to normal. Scientist are concerned about the crisis, but the political leaders, who only look at the next election, often fail to see the present problem being converted into crisis. At present, most of the governments are seeking to solve their water problems by turning away from reliance on rainfall and surface water, and using subterranean supplies of groundwater instead. But that is like making constant withdrawals from a bank account without depositing a penny into it.

Many people think that water may be a cause to a possible next 'world war'. Almost half the world’s population lives in 263 international river basins. However, most of these basins have no treaties to share the water. The threat of over-exploitation of the available resources may potentially lead to the subject of disputes. Even if water crisis may not cause any 'world war' as such, some think that we might witness the phenomenon of 'water refugees' as soon as in the next 15 years, due to droughts and glacier retreats. United Nations reports suggest that about 50% of the world population will live in water-stressed conditions in the next 15 years.

The polluted water has direct and unacceptable consequences: drink dirty water and you get sick. We often hear about the consequences of arsenic poisoning found in the available water in the Terai region of Nepal as well as, in several parts of India, Pakistan & Bangladesh. We know that all of the water caused diseases are completely preventable; but we don't have a strong will power and commitment to actually prevent it.

We should act right now, to prevent the present water problem turning into a crisis. As the urban areas are already over populated, I don't think our cities are ready to accept additional 'water refugees'. At last, I leave you, the readers, with an interesting but brainstorming power point slides to take a look:

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: design crisis)

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Basanta Gautam on October 22, 2008 at 7:18 AM said...

Timely posting Deependrajee!

Water crisis is going to be a major crisis in coming days. Individual and collective effort is urgently needed from nations and organizations.

But I still think that if the concerned parties become honest and rise above the so called 'water politics', the solution is still within our reach.

Second, any plan or policy will not be successful unless population control too is carried out. Generally, we think and plan in terms of current population, but when our plan gets materialized at last, the population is already increased and the problem remains as it was.

Lukmanul Hakim said...

I know water is important and have taken any necessary actions in my daily life towards efficient use of water. However, this post has opened another view that this problem is really getting serious and worldwide, and to me this is very scary. I wish for a better future for this world and it is an appeal to all readers to start efficient use of water from ourselves.

आकार on October 22, 2008 at 8:41 AM said...

yeah, you are absolutely right.

abc said...

more than 80% in the developing die prematurely due to water-born diseases. And of other diseases, more than 80% are lifestyle diseases including mental.
Just imagine hw we r suffering unnecessarily.

उजेली on October 22, 2008 at 2:08 PM said...

"Many people think that water may be a cause to a possible next 'world war'."

I found this line very interesting !!!

Alok said...

Excellent post. thanks for writing such a nice n informative article on a really genuine issue. you are right that politicians normally can't think beyond next election and that is why they always tend to work on ad-hoc basis.
Also, I liked the slides on global water problem. once again, hats off to you for a well structured write-up. keep it up.

Nava Raj Karki said...

Excellent piece of work. Being a lifeline, water also can be dangerous to our life if proper safeguards are not taken. And, the issues related to efficient and judicious water usages are becoming more important day-by-day. Congratulations to Deependra ji for your efforts.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I sincerely appreciate the concerns that you all have shown to the growing global water problem issue. No doubt that the challenges are increasingly assuming a global face for everyone around the world: governments, organizations, and citizens. Groundwater systems provide 25 to 40 percent of the world’s drinking water, yet they suffer from continuous and huge overdraft and inadequate rates of recharge. The rivers, already facing pollution and the effects of damming and diversion, are also exhibiting declining flows. According to a report, sanitation coverage in developing countries (49 percent) is only half of that of the developed countries(98 percent). Drought, pollution, ecosystem degradation, natural disasters, urbanization, corruption, and population growth are some of the many dynamics that pressure water resources at levels beyond the watershed. It's the high time for the governments to come up with a long term sustainable plans, and the citizens to practice judicious utilization measures. Awareness campaigns are also needed, I guess.
Let's not only pray for a 'problem free' world, but also start acting in a way to achieve it.

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