Tag Archives: Water

Economist: A special report on water – For want of a drink

Source: Economist

WHEN the word water appears in print these days, crisis is rarely far behind. Water, it is said, is the new oil: a resource long squandered, now growing expensive and soon to be overwhelmed by insatiable demand. Aquifers are falling, glaciers vanishing, reservoirs drying up and rivers no longer flowing to the sea. Climate change threatens to make the problems worse. Everyone must use less water if famine, pestilence and mass migration are not to sweep the globe. As it is, wars are about to break out between countries squabbling over dams and rivers. If the apocalypse is still a little way off, it is only because the four horsemen and their steeds have stopped to search for something to drink.

The language is often overblown, and the remedies sometimes ill conceived, but the basic message is not wrong. Water is indeed scarce in many places, and will grow scarcer. Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium will be painful, and political disputes may increase in number and intensify in their capacity to cause trouble. To carry on with present practices would indeed be to invite disaster.

Why? The difficulties start with the sheer number of people using the stuff. When, 60 years ago, the world’s population was about 2.5 billion, worries about water supply affected relatively few people. Both drought and hunger existed, as they have throughout history, but most people could be fed without irrigated farming. Then the green revolution, in an inspired combination of new crop breeds, fertilisers and water, made possible a huge rise in the population. The number of people on Earth rose to 6 billion in 2000, nearly 7 billion today, and is heading for 9 billion in 2050. The area under irrigation has doubled and the amount of water drawn for farming has tripled. The proportion of people living in countries chronically short of water, which stood at 8% (500m) at the turn of the 21st century, is set to rise to 45% (4 billion) by 2050. And already 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night, partly for lack of water to grow food.

People in temperate climates where the rain falls moderately all the year round may not realise how much water is needed for farming. In Britain, for example, farming takes only 3% of all water withdrawals. In the United States, by contrast, 41% goes for agriculture, almost all of it for irrigation. In China farming takes nearly 70%, and in India nearer 90%. For the world as a whole, agriculture accounts for almost 70%.

Farmers’ increasing demand for water is caused not only by the growing number of mouths to be fed but also by people’s desire for better-tasting, more interesting food. Unfortunately, it takes nearly twice as much water to grow a kilo of peanuts as a kilo of soyabeans, nearly four times as much to produce a kilo of beef as a kilo of chicken, and nearly five times as much to produce a glass of orange juice as a cup of tea. With 2 billion people around the world about to enter the middle class, the agricultural demands on water would increase even if the population stood still.

Industry, too, needs water. It takes about 22% of the world’s withdrawals. Domestic activities take the other 8%. Together, the demands of these two categories quadrupled in the second half of the 20th century, growing twice as fast as those of farming, and forecasters see nothing but further increases in demand on all fronts.

Read the rest of the story here


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Opening Message at the People’s Water Forum

Speech delivered by Mary Ann Manahan, a water justice activist based in the Philippines during the press conference of the Peoples’ Water Forum at Marmara Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey on March 19, 2009. She spoke on behalf of the Asian delegation present at the Peoples’ Water Forum.

Asia’s water resources are described as a paradox. One ofabundance—we are home to tremendous water resources: great rivers systems and lakes in Tibet, India, Southeast Asia, and China. But at the same time, of scarcity— we have the highest number of people unserved by either water supply or sanitation. 715 million people in Asia have no access to safe drinking water, while 1.9 billion or close to 50% of its population has no access to sanitation. This scarcity has provoked water wars in communities and interstate conflicts between China, the Mekong region, India and Pakistan who are fighting on transboundary issues, water sharing, and dam constructions.

More here


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PAKISTAN: Not a drop of clean water to drink

Source: Dawn

“While over 80 percent of the people in Karachi boil water, many still suffer from health problems. Since there is no advanced water treatment at Karachi’s plants, all health-threatening contaminants in raw water escape treatment and end up in finished water. Conventional water treatment plants are ineffective in removing heavy metals, pesticides and agrochemicals.

Water treatment plants in Karachi and Hyderabad must have tertiary or advanced water treatment units in addition to the rapid-sand filtration system so that toxic contaminants, which are not removed by conventional water treatment plants, can be eliminated.”

Full article: http://www.dawn.com/2008/08/20/op.htm#3

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In ASIA, water progresses as sanitation regresses

“The world’s poorest nations are making halting progress in water, but little or no tangible improvement in sanitation — two of the basic necessities of life. The U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, which seek to reduce extreme poverty and hunger by 50 percent by 2015, has also set a target of halving the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation.

But this goal may never be reached unless at least 10 billion dollars are invested every year, through 2015, to improve sanitation worldwide, according to the Stockholm International Water Institute. It is hard for policy makers and opinion leaders to imagine how unsafe — not to mention embarrassing — it is to relieve oneself in public, in the middle of the street, or for women in rural areas waiting for sunset to find a bush or faraway field, with high risks of physical assault or rape.”

Full story: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=43595

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PAKISTAN’S water scenario

PAKISTAN’S water scenario has never looked grimmer. With an annual population increase of more than two per cent, there is intense pressure on the country’s water resources. Most areas experience low and irregular rainfall, groundwater is being overused, rivers are drying up, glaciers are melting and, as this paper reported the other day, the storage capacity of dams including Tarbela and Mangla has been significantly reduced. Unfortunately, we must rely on the natural resources we have, because the creation of new ones is impossible. The challenge is then to generate more water from whatever limited resources we possess. This appears a gargantuan task, especially in the light of World Bank findings in 2005 that “it is projected that over 30 per cent more water will be needed over the next 20 years to meet increased agricultural, domestic and industrial demands” in Pakistan.

Given the extent of wastage of water, only a collective effort to address the country’s chronic water shortage can provide some respite. Yes, we do need big dams, viable in design and politically non-controversial, to store this scarce commodity and cut down on our water losses. But it is equally essential to implement a water conservation strategy that is simple enough to be followed by the common man. After all, people must be made aware that it is their future that is at stake and that without conservation efforts on their part, the horrendous consequences of water scarcity cannot be staved off in the years ahead.

Unfortunately, the importance of water conservation has not yet been realised. It is not a topic that is considered serious enough to be discussed in schools or neighbourhoods, and a community spirit is sorely lacking in this regard. Of course, one can blame the government for a defective water supply network that loses a large quantum of water through faulty pipes. As individuals, we waste water every day. Defective taps continue to drip for weeks if not months and end up wasting several litres of water a day — a quantity that could be used to wash up dirty dishes in the kitchen. In every other way, too, such as washing clothes or watering plants, we are far from economical in the use of water. Meanwhile, in areas under agriculture, canal leakages and certain irrigation practices also contribute to water loss — according to some studies, as much as 50 per cent goes to waste. Educating the public on ways to recycle and reduce the consumption of water may not be the final solution in itself. But it is certainly an integral part of it.

Source: DAWN


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