Friday, December 16, 2005
A Global Disaster
Water is one of the most precious elements on the planet. A human being may survive without food for several days but water deprivation can kill a person in a matter of hours. Life is, therefore, tied to water, as it is tied to air and food is indeed tied to water.
Water could well be the only natural resources to touch all aspects of human civilization. No single measure would do more to reduce disease and save lives in the developing world than bringing safe water and adequate sanitation (Kofi Annan).
While water sustains life, it can also cause death if contaminated. Some of the deadliest diseases, which kill millions every year, are carried in unclean water. About 120 crore people (20% of the global population) across 40 countries do not have access to safe water 240 crores of people lack adequate sanitation services. There is no more fresh water on earth today than there was 2000 years ago when population was 3% of its current size! Women in Africa and Asia walk an average distance of 6km a day to collect water.
Fresh water fishing, a key livelihood activity around the world, is under threat. More than 20% of the world’s known 10,000 fresh water fish species have become extinct, been threatened or endangered in recent decades. Water may be the cause of another global war. Over the next 20 years, the world’s population will increase from the present 6.4 billion to an estimated 7.2 billion whereas the average supply of water per person is expected to fall by one-third. The hardest hit will be the poorest.
Save every drop of water today, because water shortage could well lead to the next world war. Unless appropriate measure are taken immediately, the world would soon face threats to global water supply; further environmental damage and ongoing health risks for millions of people lacking access to clean water. Fierce national competition over water resources has prompted fears that water issues contain the seed of vident conflict. (Kofi Annan). There are 215 trans-boundary rivers whose basins cover 50% of all land areas; 2% of the national boundaries are formed by water. Consequently, the UN has identified 300 potential water conflict zones.
Water covers 70% of the planet but more than 97.5% of the surface water is ocean, which, obviously, is not useable in industry, agriculture or as drinking water. (Desalination is far too expensive for widespread adoption). The fresh water on which the world depends is a mere 2.5% of available water. But then, three quarter of this fresh water is trapped in the form of snow and ice. So all that is available water are the principal cause of the crisis.
In plain terms, as far as fresh water is concerned, the world has been living way beyond its means. Conserving water or using water more efficiently, polluting less, prudently managing supply and demand and slowing population growth collectively represent the answer to the problem.
Posted by Jeevan at 8:40 AM