Monday, 4 January 2010

Water; More Important Than Oil

The time of cheap and easy access to water is ending, posing a potentially greater threat to businesses than the loss of any other natural resource, including fossil fuel resources. The collapse of the world’s financial system are our warning because we live in a water 'bubble' as unsustainable as the bubble that burst in the world’s financial markets.

The Earth does not have an infinite supply of water. There is exactly the same amount of it available as there has always been. We are now, with some 6.7 billion individuals, sharing this same amount as the 300 million did at the time of the Roman Empire. Water use has been increasing per individual, during the 20th century the world population increased fourfold, but the amount of freshwater that it used increased nine times over. Almost 97.5 per cent of all water on earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5 per cent as fresh water. Nearly 70 per cent of that fresh water is frozen in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland, less than one per cent of the world's fresh water is accessible for direct human use.

The Nile is the longest river on earth wandering for more than 4000 miles. Only two per cent of Egypt’s territory is arable along the Nile River and since the building of Aswan Dam, the discharge of the River into the Mediterranean has greatly reduced. The Tigris and Euphrates River system flowing through Syria and Iraq is being overused by the dams erected in Turkey and Iraq. The Kingdom of Jordan will need about 1.54 billion cubic meters of water to meet the needs of its population by the end of next year but will actually face a shortage of almost 319 million cubic meters. For the problems the Middle east faces, see HERE.

China’s Yellow River which flows some 4000 km’s through five provinces before it reaches the Yellow Sea, has been under mounting pressure for several decades. It first ran dry in 1972 and since 1985 it has often failed to reach the sea. China has built hundreds of water dams on the Yellow River during the last 50 years especially in the upper ranges. Thus record low water levels in the River have been witnessed in recent years.

The 2,900 km long Indus River, the lifeline of Pakistan’s economy is dying a slow death due to the shrinking Tibetan glaciers and construction of dams and barrages upstream. It also happens to be the main source of water supply to Pakistan’s major cities including Karachi. The drying up of Indus River has adversely effected the growth of mangrove forests as well as the fishing industry in Pakistan.

Friction between countries triggered by problems of water scarcity is on the rise. The regions of Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa are the most vulnerable in this regard. The armed conflict between Israel and Palestine over the Jordan river has been going on for more than 50 years and is getting worse by the day on account of increasing water shortage. Disagreements over water are also erupting along the Mekong River in Indo-China as well as around what remains of the Aral Sea in Eastern Europe. There have been longstanding disputes between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over the control of Nile River.

Lake Chad of Central Africa which supports some 30 million people has, due to global warming, shrunk to one-tenth of its former size over the past three decades. The conflict in Darfur owes its origin to decreasing water supply and the consequent shortage of pastures. In Kenya in January 2005 thousand of people fled their homes due to clashes over water in Kenya’s Rift valley.

Few years back, clashes broke out between two southern Indian states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over access to Cauvery River which flows from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. Karnataka blamed Tamil Nadu of wasting water and expanding its irrigated land, while in the US, hydrologists have declared thirty-six states of the country as ‘water-stressed’ states.

There are some alternatives available for oil, but none whatsoever for water.

1 comment:

Anne said...

All earth's resources are finite and are being recycled. Water however is vital and as well as being the same amount, its quality is increasing in toxicity. Not good. Thank you for creating awareness of the importance of water in our lives.
'Man cannot live by bread alone'