6,000 CHILDREN DIE EACH DAY FROM LACK OF CLEAN WATER, SANITATION
22 March 2006
Fresh water is an increasingly scarce natural resource. Parts of east Africa have not seen rain for six years and six nations there are facing extreme famine. Through events organized by UNESCO, the UN and NGOs are hosting World Water Day today, to raise awareness of the problem of scarcity of safe drinking water affecting an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.
As much as 3/4 of the population of Mozambique has no access to safe, clean drinking water. And it is estimated that some 330 million people across Africa have no choice but to use untreated, often contaminated water, for lack of access to clean water.
Sometimes complicated and intense paradox affects the water economy of one single country. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, central India, there is a massive government-sponsored dam-building project underway, with the goal of harnessing and cleaning one of the world's great water systems, but the most in need are finding water directed away from them, while along the Ganges, religious doctrine holds that the sacred river has self-cleaning properties, leading millions of people to bathe in highly contaminated waters.
Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Egypt all claim waters from the Nile river system, but as Ethiopia continues to wrestle with severe drought of historic proportions, any claim it places on Nile water deprives Egypt downstream of water it needs to sustain a society famously dependent on the great river, since ancient times.
At the mouth of the Nile, it is now reported that the full flow of the river often does not reach the Mediterranean, a combined result of over-pumping for intense irrigation, water waste, increasing scarcity, unsustainable levels of evaporation, desertification of floodplanes and wetland degradation at the Nile delta, all of which contribute to a spiral of water-system degradation.
It has long been said the wars of the 21st century are more likely to be fought over water than over oil, as new fuel resources become more widely available and world population, together with poverty indices, poor irrigation planning and rising temperatures contribute to a reduction in water resources per capita and across the globe. [s]
Research and new images show glaciers famed as "snows of Kilimanjaro" receding at alarming rate, far faster than projections had suggested. Researchers at Ohio State University, who warned five years ago that the famed snowcap on Mount Kilimanjaro might melt or even disappear now say the melt is occurring, but at a rate much faster than expected. [Full Story]
AFRICA SUFFERS SPREAD OF FAMINE, HUNGER
As the world begins to focus on the nearly 3 million facing hunger in Niger and the catastrophic refugee crisis in Darfur, in western Sudan, an estimated 31.1 million people across the continent face food shortages.
Arable land, foodstocks and agriculture in general are suffering dangerous setbacks, making it increasingly difficult to feed African populations, some of which are growing rapidly. [Full Story]
POPULATION, LAND, AND CONFLICT
As land and water become scarce and as competition for these vital resources intensifies, we can expect mounting social tensions within societies, particularly between those who are poor and dispossessed and those who are wealthy, as well as among ethnic and religious groups. Population growth brings with it a steady shrinkage of life-supporting resources per person. [Full Story]
The United Nations has been pushing for some time for a global strategy to deal with the looming scarcity of fresh water. A BBC report from June 2000 indicated 1 in 5 of all living human beings already lacks access to safe drinking water. [Full Story]
As world water demand has tripled over the last half-century, it has exceeded the sustainable yield of aquifers in scores of countries, leading to falling water tables. In effect, governments are satisfying the growing demand for food by overpumping groundwater, a measure that virtually assures a drop in food production when the aquifer is depleted. Knowingly or not, governments are creating a "food bubble" economy. As water use climbs, the world is incurring a vast water deficit... [Full Story]