News / Asia

Expert Says Cooperation Can Resolve Global Water Scarcities

Expert Says Cooperation Can Resolve Global Water Scarcitiesi
X
March 22, 2013 4:54 PM
Uncertain access to fresh water is among the world’s greatest security threats. That’s according to the worldwide assessment delivered by U.S. intelligence agencies to Congress earlier in March. Water shortages, increasing pollution, flooding and climate change can all heighten instability within and between countries. But on this World Water Day (March 22), the United Nations says water scarcity offers opportunities for collaboration as well as conflict. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Expert Says Cooperation Can Resolve Global Water Scarcities

— Uncertain access to fresh water is among the world’s greatest security threats. That’s according to the worldwide assessment delivered by U.S. intelligence agencies to Congress earlier in March.

Water shortages, increasing pollution, flooding and climate change can all heighten instability within and between countries. But on this World Water Day, March 22, the United Nations says water scarcity offers opportunities for collaboration as well as conflict.

A barbed-wired fence divides farmlands in India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed neighbors with a history of violent conflict.

But the waters that feed them know no boundaries. The Indus River basin spans both countries. Both rely on these waters for irrigation, drinking water and hydroelectric power.

But most their water disputes have ended with handshakes, not violence, thanks to a 1960 treaty, says environmental security expert David Michel at the Stimson Center, a Washington research group.

"The Indus Water Treaty was developed and signed largely due to the parties’ recognition of the possible consequences of failing to come to some agreement on how to manage this river that crosses their borders," said Michel.

Population with access to clean waterPopulation with access to clean water
x
Population with access to clean water
Population with access to clean water
But managing river resources may get more difficult in the coming years. Both countries are growing rapidly, raising demand for food, water and energy. And there is no additional water in the river basin.

Michel says it’s not only happening in South Asia.

"We are increasingly bumping up against the limits of available renewable water supplies in many regions of the world," he said.

On Southeast Asia’s Mekong River, plans for 12 electricity-generating dams are raising concerns for those downstream who depend on the river for their fields and fisheries.

And rights to rivers and underground water are flashpoints in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Challenge of sharing resources

Sharing these resources will be a growing challenge as climate change shifts precipitation patterns, creating winners and losers. But that’s not all, Michel says.

"Climate change is not the only, and is not even the most important water pressure in the immediate future. Population growth is really driving the water resources challenge for the coming couple of decades," he said.

Larger populations mean more demand, but also more pollution. Michel says even contaminated water may be in greater demand.

"Water scarcity, water stress, will often drive people to use more polluted water sources. One very, very troubling consequence is the impact on public health," he said.

Waterborne diseases cost India alone more than 6 percent of its gross domestic product each year. And pollution flows downstream.

Although these pressures raise the threat of conflict over water, Michel says wars are not inevitable.

"The pie to be divided grows substantially with more cooperation. And countries - even those that are often at odds - they recognize that," he said.

So Michel says he sees a future with fewer water wars and more handshakes.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid