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Water shortage & world peace

Water shortage & world peace
Highlights

Water shortage & world peace, Water is indispensible for living. Indeed, water is the most important component whose presence is now detected to confirm existence of life during space explorations, too.

Water is indispensible for living. Indeed, water is the most important component whose presence is now detected to confirm existence of life during space explorations, too. While 70% of the earth is covered with water, only 2.5% of it is fresh water and the rest of it is saline water. Just 1% of water is accessible and the rest of it is trapped in glaciers and the huge snow fields at the poles. To sum up, just 0.007% of planet’s water is available to cater to the needs of 7 billion. While the amount of fresh water remained nearly constant, over centuries population has exploded. Water use has been increasing at more than twice the rate of increase of population in the last century.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the population could live under water stress conditions.

There has been a surge in water-related crises across the world and countries started experiencing worst forms of drought. A billion of people don’t have access to safe drinking water. Over the past hundred years, while the population increased three times there had been six-fold surge in water consumption. If the present trend continues, there could be 40% gap between water availability and demand by 2030. Demographic changes and unsustainable economic practices are taking a toll on the quality and quantity of water available.

Data from Grace Satellites of NASA indicated that California is on the verge of epic drought and that groundwater resources have depleted enormously. It indicated that countries in the North latitudes and tropics are becoming increasingly wetter and those in the middle latitudes are running low on water. Middle latitudes includes countries which are arid and semi-arid and are more likely to become dry. Middle East, North Africa and South Asia are projected to experience severe shortages due to bad management and overuse. Further water-intensive cropping systems, rapid urbanisation, cooling power plants, fracking oil and gas wells, besides intensified dry might spell have aggravated the water crisis.

Overuse of groundwater has become staggering in the stretch extending from Eastern Pakistan, northern plains of India and into Bangladesh. Almost 75% farmers in this region depend on pumped groundwater for farming. Other critical water basins identified are the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Mekong, Jordan, Indus, Brahmaputra and Amu Darya.

Water shortages would greatly impact food production, energy supply and might put extra pressure on governments struggling with poverty and social conflicts.

The Pacific Institute which studies issues of water and global security has indicated that violent confrontations over water has increased four-fold in the last decade. While chances of nations waging war over water is slim, sub-national conflicts like those between farmers and cities, upstream and downstream users of river water is on rise. There are legal tools to resolve the disputes between nations internationally, but there are fewer tools at sub-national level.


According to the research studies of the US Centre of Naval Analyses and Aarhus University of Denmark, by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench thirst of the world population if we continue with the water-intensive energy production. It recommended that power production from nuclear power and coal that use excessive amounts of water for cooling should be replaced by solar and wind energy which virtually needs no water for power generation. Energy production is by far is the biggest source of water consumption bigger than agriculture.

Most recently ISIS in Iraq has exploited access to water to expand its control over territory and to subjugate the population. It has deliberately cut off water supply to the villages which resisted their advances and substantially flooded regions to displace thousands of people. In a chilling prospect, it has now gained control over the Mosul Dam which indirectly sustains lives of 5,00,000 people in Bagdad. Water has been an issue of conflict among nations. The proposal for construction of Rogun Dam and hydroelectric power plants in Tajikistan raised tensions in Uzbekistan over the impact of the dam on its cotton field’s irrigation systems. But in reality as the fresh water shortages become increasingly acute, the threat of violence also increases. In a classical case of Indus water treaty between India and Pakistan, water has become a source of cooperation.

More than 90% of world’s population lives in countries that share river and lake basins and 148 countries share at least one trans boundary river basin. Almost 420 international water agreements were signed between1820 to 2007. Reduced access to water increases social tension, political conflicts and rapid refugee flow.

Lack of access to water can augur conflict and even threaten peace and stability hence the new mantra seems to be hydro-diplomacy. It has potential to focus on water as a source of cooperation rather than as a source of
conflict.

Hence, the immediate challenge for every nation is to reduce water foot print and to involve in global water conservation practices to avert the impending global water crisis.

By: Ramaharitha Pusarla

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