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.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora