Water shortages 'to be new cause of wars'
Rivers will displace oil as trigger for conflict among poor nations, the World Bank says. Steve Connor reports.
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 07 August 1995
Chronic water shortages already affect 40 per cent of the world's population in 80 countries and the situation is set to become far worse with an expanding population and ever-increasing demand for water.
Whereas the main constraint on food production in the developing world has in the past been a shortage of land, it will be a scarcity of water in the future, according to a study by the World Bank.
Global demand for water is increasing at a rate of 2.3 per cent a year, doubling every 21 years. ''Supply can no longer keep up with this rate of growth,'' the World Bank warns.
A billion people in the world today do not have access to clean drinking water and almost as many again lack adequate sanitation facilities. Dirty water causes 80 per cent of the disease in developing countries, killing 10 million people each year.
''A lack of clean water and proper sanitation also can trigger economic disaster,'' the World Bank says. A recent cholera epidemic in Peru, for instance, resulted in loss of agricultural exports and tourism estimated at $1bn (pounds 625m)''or more than three times the amount invested in water supply and sanitation services in Peru during the 1980s''.
Ismail Serageldin, a World Bank official, warned: ''Many of the wars this century were about oil, but wars of the next century will be over water.''
Stephen Lintner, an environmental specialist at the World Bank, said that the Middle East is the most likely focal point for future wars over water. "There is a high potential for conflict of a military nature in the river basins of the Jordan, Tigres and Euphrates,'' he said.
The gradual nature of the crisis requires ''sustained action'', Dr Lintner said. ''We need to treat water as a valuable resource that should be wisely used. Much of the scarcity is not to do with its unavailability, it's because it's badly managed.''
Major trends that are creating a global water emergency are:
t A population explosion, from 5.6bn to about 8bn by 2025.
t Increasing levels of pollution that contaminate clean water supplies, effectively decreasing the amount of water available.
t New sources of water can cost between two and three times that of sources already tapped.
People living in the Middle East and North Africa will experience one of the most precarious water supplies in the world. The growing population in this region has already begun to overwhelm traditional water sources, the World Bank says.
''From 1960 to 2025, per capita renewable water supplies [in the Middle East and North Africa] will have fallen from 3,430 cubic metres to 667 cubic metres, or an 80 per cent drop within a single lifetime.''
The contamination of water supplies by increasing levels of pollution will result in a spiral of decline for water resources. About 95 per cent of the world's sewage is poured straight into rivers, where it is joined by growing amounts of industrial waste.
Mr Serageldin said: ''Most rivers in and around cities and towns in these countries are a little more than open, stinking sewers constitute a reservoir for cholera and other water-related diseases.''
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 2 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Nathan Cirillo: Final pictures emerge of soldier moments before he was shot dead by Ottowa gunman
Ottawa shootings: Terror strikes Canadian capital as attacks leave one soldier and one suspect dead
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...
£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...
£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...
£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...