There is more than enough water around the world to meet all needs. But still water is a scarce commodity. Why? The answer to this peculiar problem is provided by the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2006.
Unequal distribution of water “ between and within” the countries was the bane of the water crisis. In the Indian context, it has warned that the agriculture production would fall as the groundwater level in many areas was sinking by more than a meter annually.
Pointing out that water scarcity was not only on account of quantity but quality also, the UNDP findings portray a dismal picture of the fast polluting river systems of the country. All 14 major river systems were “badly polluted”. In this regard it has sampled Yamuna river in which 200 million liters of raw sewage and 20 million liters of waste are dumped every day.
Interestingly, the report has ridiculed the “ water war pessimists’ for predicting conflicts over water. Pointing out that there were only 37 reported incidents of violence in the last five decades involving countries, it stated that in comparison over 200 water treaties were signed. This included the contentious Indus Basin Treaty between India and Pakistan.
Interdependence among the nations for sharing water resources would remain to be the buzz word. It would be imperative given the fact that two in every five people live in international water basins shared by more than one nation. Quoting instances, the report said nine countries shared the Amazon and 11 the Nile.
Cautioning the countries about the challenges ahead, the report has suggested that integrated water resources management strategies should be developed with a proper planning framework. It has also suggested making water management an integral part of national poverty alleviation strategies and making equity and the interests of the poor as the central theme of integrated water resource management.
On the global warming threat, the report has stressed the need to recalibrate the response to this challenge. Emphasis should be on strategies for adaptation in national water management policies.
One of the serious fall-out of the climatic changes has been the reduction in agriculture production. Result would be hunger threat to 75-125 million more people. Changing monsoon patterns in the region would lead to heavy rains in a reduced span causing drought.
The report also warned about the inadequate international response to threat posed by climatic changes. The priority should be to restrict future global warming to less than 2 degrees C, it has suggested.