Addressing looming water crisis
Water, freshwater to be specific, has always been a scarce resource. And stories of conflicts between territories, regions, and even nations over the control of the sources of water abound. With the increase in population and the expansion of agriculture and industry, the demand for water has also seen a phenomenal rise over the years. And as with other natural resources, the existing sources of fresh water have been exploited mindlessly.
A UN report published before the recently held UN water summit termed the prevailing situation 'vampiric overconsumption and overdevelopment.' And in the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' view, water is as good as 'humanity's lifeblood' and that it is being squandered through 'unsustainable water use, pollution and unchecked global warming'.
In other words, overdevelopment also has its 'vampiric' role in sucking the lifeblood of humanity! The narrative of development or of its later-day version, growth, has been the stuff of every discourse on politics and economy since long. Like when people first discovered that mother nature has tucked away an inexhaustible reserve of fossil fuel in her bosom, there began a mad race to extract it and burn with abandon. And no one saw anything wrong with it, because it was all for society's advancement. But now it is universally acknowledged that burning fossil fuel is suicidal though, humanity cannot stop committing the sin for obvious reasons. And during the previous centuries following the Industrial Revolution, humanity's dependence on this cheap source of energy has only increased immensely so much so that any effort to find an alternative has never been duly encouraged. And the fallout has been the global warming that is threatening the existence of not only humans as a species, but also of the entire animal kingdom.
And the same fossil-fuel-driven growth has also enabled people with the help of mechanised saws to clear forestlands of trees faster than ever. With machines powered by fossil fuels, water on the earth's surface and below the ground has been withdrawn and used for irrigation; dams and other water control structures have been built to control and divert water from the rivers. Industrial use of water has both exhausted and polluted rivers. In a similar fashion, increasing urbanisation, which is an important sign of development or growth, is yet another candidate for 'vampiric' use and wastage of water.
The entire world as a result is becoming more and more water-insecure every passing day. Richard Connor, the lead author of the UN report on the global water crisis, told the BBC that up to 3.5 billion people live under the conditions of water stress at least one month a year.
The latest UN climate report portrayed a similar world hit by a severe shortage of water. It says, "roughly half of the world's population currently experience severe water scarcity for at least part of the year."
Are the world's development thinkers concerned about the current trend of worsening water crisis across the globe? If they cannot reverse the trend, they can at least devise ways to protect what is still left of the earth's freshwater reserves. At the same time, new models have to be thought up to manage water-use more efficiently avoiding wastage. For instance, technology to recycle and reuse water can be introduced to promote the efficient use of water.