Across the world a silent crisis is brewing which needs to halted immediately for the sake of the entire human race.
Many political pundits have boldly prophesized that the Third World War, if it happens will be waged over a few basic natural resources mainly for the ubiquitous bland transparent liquid- water. In a planet where nearly seventy five percent of its mass is constituted by water in various forms, such claims may appear to be outlandish, bordering on the realms of fantasy. However with the earth’s population nearly tripling in the 20th century and science along with technology massively improving the standards of living, Mother Nature is bearing the brunt of man’s callous approach and wanton wastage. The spurt in population along with industrialization will see the demand for water in the coming years, skyrocket which will have serious environmental ramifications.
It is true that today more waste water is generated and dispersed than in any other era in the planet’s history, still a mindboggling 1.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. Proper sanitation facilities elude one out of every six people.
Water has been seen to be one of the primary reasons for many nations failing to lift themselves from the clutches of poverty. In the developing countries nearly 2 million people every year succumbs to water borne diseases. Yet such facts fail to hog the media limelight unlike acts of terrorism despite the casualty figures being miniscule compared to water related deaths. One can comprehend the magnitude of the menace keeping in mind the figures that proves diarrhea alone in the last decade has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflicts since World War II. It is not surprising then that nearly 50 percent of hospital beds in the world are filled with patients suffering from water borne illness.
The Water Crisis - A steady depletion of natural water resources
An Agrarian Crisis
Although food security has been beefed up in a major way in the last ten years or so, there is a steady decline in water withdrawals for irrigation and agricultural purposes. A massive boom in industrialization and urbanization coupled with changes in lifestyle has resulted in a significant increase in per person usage of water. This skewed increase has meant less amount of water is available for industrialization and agricultural development.
The usage is heavily skewed in the favour of developed nations. Imagine this, while an average American family consumes nearly 175 to 180 gallons of water everyday for an African family the number is a mere 5 gallons. The hamburger that everybody loves to gorge: a quarter pound of it guzzles nearly 3000 gallons of water.
Not only does this excessive consumption affects agriculture it also adversely impacts the entire ecosystem, especially the aquatic ecosystems and the dependent species. The environmental balance gets distorted so it fails to perform its regulatory role. More than 20% of the world’s fish water species is teetering on the edge of extinction because of contaminated water. Nearly half of all the major rivers in the world are polluted and at the same time getting seriously depleted.
Water Stress And Its Geopolitical Repurcussions
Water stress signifies imbalance between usage and availability of water. It is a proportion of water usage to renewable resources. It is a critical ratio as its value can foretell an impending water crisis in a particular region.
High water stress means low or decreasing natural water resources which may escalate geopolitical or trans boundary tensions between two neighboring nations. More than 300 river basins are shared by two or more countries. Changes in the consumption pattern of a particular region may intensify tensions between nations. If one country is deemed to be consuming more than its rightful share, then this may very well become a major point of conflict which will consequently intensify geopolitical strife.
The current water crisis has assumed menacing proportions that governments across the world can no longer ignore. The crisis is a result of shambolic water management and sheer government apathy and obliviousness. One must remember that we are drinking the same water that the dinosaurs drank millions of years ago. There is no new source of water. So it is imperative for mankind’s survival, that this precious natural resource is preserved at any cost. Nations and various global bodies should join hands to raise awareness about this impending calamity. Make no mistake- The Mayans may have been wrong in their doomsday predictions, but the water crisis if continues unabated will undoubtedly assume catastrophic proportions and precipitate the end of this planet