We are nearing a crisis of our own making, water the most important element in our lives is draining away. Drip, drip, drip; land is drying, plants are dying. While 70% of the earth is covered by water only 3% is drinkable and of that an approximate 2% is ice. The ice of Antarctica and of the Arctic is showing increasing signs of melt which could devastate coastal areas. To add to the nightmare 50% of our wetlands have gone. This has a tremendous impact on wildlife.
The poorer regions of the developing world suffer the brunt of water shortage. Sub-Sahara Africa has enduring problems which show no signs of abating. The situation is made worse by, “Weak governments, corruption, mismanagement of resources, poor long-term investment and lack of environmental research…”. Conflict has made it difficult to make improvements; Ivory Coast, which split north & south four years ago. The on-going troubles which confront the nations of Darfur, Nigeria, Mali and Ethiopia conflict or famine here continues to wreak havoc. Surprisingly, Ethiopia is the most water abundant in the region.
??? “Too often, where we need water we find guns” Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General
Overall, 25% of Africa’s population suffer from water stress. (www.cfr.org) Whereas, Ethiopia has sufficient water, the country of South Africa is one of the poorest in water terms. However, S. Africa has some 589 dams out of a total of 980 in the region. Here lies the key, S. Africa has the infrastructure and has better managed their resources and crucially has the means. We spend £/$ billions on aid in Africa and nothing seems from the outside to have improved.
Q? Is much of the charitable donation we make feeding war and corruption and not the people?
In Pakistan, the situation is reaching danger point. Population is increasing by three (3) million per year and the water table is falling which has led the World Bank to conclude that Pakistan, “…is already one of the most water stressed countries in the world”. Its neighbour India has a developing water crisis.
With population growing by 15 million annually and the water table falling all over the country the situation is becoming critical. Some districts have to have water trucked in. A major problem is the unregulated digging of irrigation wells of which there are an estimated twenty-one (21) million. With the water table falling and more wells being dug; how long before the government take control. www.theguardian.com
Also, according to The Guardian, countries that have reached their water peak include: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In Saudi Arabia and Yemen it is understood that their water table is falling by six (6’) feet year on year. In Saudi Arabia over a 20 year period the aquifers have been seriously depleted which has had an impact on its grain crop. The country now has to import 15 million tonnes annually. Yemen will now need to import all its grain.
A running commentary on the problems facing Iran and Tehran in particular can be accessed via ‘Our Man in Tehran’. A series of articles is available at NYT World 2015/05/05. The issues are similar to many nations: water table depletion, rising population in Tehran which has tripled over the last thirty (30) years, made worse by a fall in average rainfall.
The great and the powerful are not immune to the rigours of water stress. China will face immense problems as water use is at a peak which will affect grain and rice production. The World Bank considers that China will face, “… catastrophic consequences for future generations”.
America may be mighty but it cannot escape the power of nature. It will need all the super heroes it can muster to get itself out of this problem. The US is a massive food producing country be it: grain, rice, soybean etc. However, a report by Ceres reminds us all, “Producing food, after all, requires more water than almost any other business on Earth”. Whereas we may drink 4 litres of water a day, it takes 2000 litres to produce our food. www.theguardian.com
California seems particularly parched at present. The recent drought conditions may force a rethink on water supply and usage. Southern California gets nearly all its water from the Colorado River. To the north it is around 20%. Betting odds on there being a shortage of river flow on the Colorado has increased from 33% to 50%, not good odds. At present Lake Mead is only 38% full. The region needs a mighty downpour which incidentally may be helped by El Nino.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Resources is predicting a huge increase in population.
2009 2020 2030
28m 41m 75m
There is a sting in the tail for all of us that we need to take seriously. “Water use is growing twice as fast as population”. (November 2014) www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.shtml
All the warnings are out there; well signposted but have not yet captured the imagination. The general media have not deduced the seriousness of our plight. Governments keep the lid on it perhaps hoping it might go away or don’t want to upset business. Meanwhile, the press feed us celebrity gossip and we become ‘mindless consumers’. (Philosopher Jürgen Habermas).
We cannot halt the use of water; everything we do is directly linked to it. We need constant reminders that only 1% is drinkable and that many millions don’t have the luxury of clean water. The potential of water wars in the developing world is very real. The prospect of severe rationing in the developed nations is increasingly likely.
It is equally obvious that we have the technology and the wherewithal to find solutions. One of our greatest attributes as human beings is devising solutions to extremely difficult problems. We are inexhaustible in our ingenuity.
One solution comes from a surprising source, Unilever, one of the world’s giant’s in chemical production. In Iowa State, they are paying soybean farmers 10c a bushel to adopt sustainable water practices. We should all cheer Unilever so where they lead others will follow.
The second enterprising solution is the use of solar power to distil water by nearly boiling it. Bedouins’ in the town of Dahab use a system called AquaDania’s WaterStiller which has proven five (5) times more efficient than other methods. (Wikipedia.org. as above).
These are practical initiatives which highlight the ingenuity of people. Finding a political solution will prove much too difficult in a liberal landscape. Politics is a blinding force; it strips the brain of the means to think beyond its narrow confines. Power and greed come to the fore and side-line any ethical approach. Thus the libertarians will sit back, enjoy a drink, toss a few coins in a charity box and turn a blind eye to the death and sheer hell of people struggling to survive.
People in the West are so afraid of taking a decisive step for fear that they will be castigated as erstwhile colonialists. They don’t want to be seen in any sense of appearing to dictate policy. These liberals suffer from historical restitution. They favour self-determination without thought of consequence, they hide behind a motto of; let them run their own affairs, find their own way. Give them some money to ease the stress.
Meanwhile, dictators, dictate and fascists terrorize but then, it’s none of our business. However, the ordinary Joes’ of Africa, Asia and the Middle East are making it our business by leaving their homeland in droves to find a better life. Immigration then becomes a major political and social issue.
One way to overcome our ‘lazy eye’ is to have strict guidelines on the use of foreign aid and to monitor its implementation. If wells are vital to ensure clean water then we only give aid for that purpose, to provide and maintain. Corruption is siphoning off £/$ millions from the real need. We desperately need an array of methods to circumvent those who indulge themselves in the proceeds of corruption.
Furthermore, we must stop treating Africa as a car-boot-sale venue. Humanitarianism is not a business tool and should never be used as such.
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