Water — The Next Flash Point By Waqar Hassan

Water — The Next Flash Point By Waqar Hassan

THE quest for discovering and managing freshwater resources has been a top priority for civilizations throughout history. Water plays a crucial role as an economic catalyst. It has remained a human development secret and a vital tool for social survival. The development of communities along the river banks of the Indus and the Nile gives us enough evidence that water is the most important resource that ensures human survival. Water remained a reason for human displacement in the past and history documents numerous water-related disputes among nations.

The ability to harness freshwater resources is crucial for the social and economic progress of nations. Humans have been using water relentlessly in their pursuit of growth and prosperity. The majority of the world’s water resources have high levels of salinity, almost 97%. Freshwater resources account for only a small percentage. Much of this valuable asset has been stored in ice caps, glaciers and underground freshwater sources. Despite human progress and prosperity, freshwater resources remain excessively exploited on Earth. Numerous sectors are responsible for the escalating stress on water resources.

Freshwater resources were suddenly put under immense pressure due to the industrialization era. A report from the INC Economies Department, referencing Aqsa stat and Oxford Economies, predicts that the industrial sector will consume 4% more water each year, leading to a rise in global water consumption from 21% to an estimated 38% by 2040. According to the report, if the trend persists, 29 out of 60 of the world’s major economies will experience a severe water crisis.

Additionally, the exponential population growth is straining the availability of freshwater resources. In 1900, there were 1.6 billion people in the world. By 2010, the global population had reached 7 billion, leading to a rise in the annual water withdrawal rate from 580 billion cubic meters to a whopping 3000 billion cubic meters. According to the “World Population Growth” report on “OurWorldInData.org”, annual water withdrawals will reach 4300 billion cubic meters with the world population at 9 billion. The future may turn bleak with the increase in per capita water consumption due to the rise in the world’s population, creating immense pressure on the available water resources.

The irrigation sector, conversely, is responsible for around 70% of freshwater withdrawal. Globally, irrigation covers nearly one-fifth of land and is responsible for 40% of agricultural production. With its agricultural focus, Asia consumes nearly 80% of the world’s freshwater resources, making up two-thirds of global water usage. In addition, the likelihood of conflicts will increase due to the world population’s growing reliance on the agricultural sector. Developing countries face the worst scenario. Almost 75% of South Asia’s population is affected by water scarcity. Water scarcity affects nearly 42% of the population in the Middle East and 35% in East Asia.

The world will face unprecedented disruption due to water scarcity. The global agricultural trade will suffer a major setback due to water scarcity. Many countries facing water scarcity still export their agricultural products. China, India and Pakistan are among the countries that export water through their agricultural exports. The international food trade relies on non-renewable groundwater for irrigation. Nearly 11% come from Pakistan, the United States and India.

Due to their high population density and agricultural-based economies, Asian countries will continue consuming freshwater resources. Similarly, developed states will remain in constant demand for freshwater resources as they are the leading nations in the industrial sector. Therefore, climate change, population growth, increased demand for food production and industrial and commercial water requirements have been hinting towards the birth of a flash point with water as the only reason for it.

Conservation of this valuable resource necessitates the adoption of innovative water-saving strategies. Implementing taxation for water usage should target those who consume large amounts of water. This needs to be done, specifically in the industrial sector. The affluent nations, along with wealthy elites in developed and developing countries, have been vital consumers of this resource. The imbalanced utilization of water across the globe is the leading factor behind water scarcity.

Water education is vital, particularly in developing nations. It’s essential for countries like Pakistan and India with above-average per capita water consumption rates. People residing in Pakistan and India, desperately require adopting water conservation as their daily life practice. Additionally, the preservation of the water beneath the surface in urban areas is crucial to protecting cities from the possibility of extinction in the future. Pakistan and India are facing an alarming rate of groundwater depletion which requires immediate action from both water-scarce states.

In addition to this, the agricultural sector needs to urgently apply technology like drip irrigation. Good governance can lead to minimal wastage of water and increase efficiency in water distribution. Managing this resource wisely requires management of both ground and fresh water. Building dams and managing river basins is also necessary to conserve and safeguard water resources. This can be done on national and regional levels. Governments, instead of fighting for water, can adopt a collective approach by investing in the projects of water conservation. It will prevent water conflicts and scarcity in nations and regions.

Above all, developed nations must do justice by helping out the developing nations in building projects for water storage and conservation. As these projects need huge investment, the developed world must play its part in being the top beneficiary of this sacred resource. Water is utilized for generating energy, powering industries, irrigating farmlands and supporting households. The rise in water demand is increasing in all these sectors. Developed and developing countries of the world have relied on these sectors for their economic and social strength.

Ignoring the warning signs of the water crisis could lead to severe consequences in social, political and industrial sectors, disrupting the established world order. It indicates future conflicts not only between countries but also between world regions. Are we ready for a water crisis that could destabilize all other sectors on a global scale? The consequences will be catastrophic and the world is ill-equipped to handle it.

—The writer is CSS Officer, based in Sargodha.

Email: waqarhassancsp@gmail.com

Water — The Next Flash Point By Waqar Hassan

Source: https://pakobserver.net/water-the-next-flash-point/

October 10, 2023

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