Climate change is a stark reality that people are aware of, yet discard it to the back of their minds. Most people are not really truly aware of the affect that climate change will have on their lives. The world as we know it has four primary seasons; summer, winter, spring and autumn. Imagine what the world will be like if you were perpetually stuck in winter and had freezing cold temperatures? Or, how will you battle with the other extreme of the temperature and were made to suffer through a summer which was hotter than you ever thought it could be?
All of these and many more ‘changes’ have actually started happening. It is estimated that the earth temperature has risen by 3.8 degree Fahrenheit, which is 1.4 degree Fahrenheit more than was expected. This is leading towards the melting of the ice caps and glaciers and raising the temperature of the world in general – but it’s not just stopping there. Rapid melting of the glaciers, increase in temperatures, unpredictable weather changes are all having huge implications on our water supplies.
Most of us don’t even think when we turn on the tap to wash our hands and let it go on while we go on about our things. We’re forever assuming the fact that this fresh water supply that we have which is palatable and useful for us in so many ways will always be around. But the reality is so much more different than this.
The entire earth is made up of 70% of water – only 2% of the entire water body on the planet consists of fresh water, i.e. water which is useful and can be used for human consumption. 1.6% of that water is locked up in glaciers and polar ice caps, 0.36% of that is locked up in underground aquifers and wells – that leaves about 0.036% of the planet’s total water supply that’s available to us.
Our entire lives are based around water. Historically, civilizations lived near water and flourished because it is a source of life. The water cycle is very simple to understand – you need water to get water. It is used in every part of our lives and is the basic thing that agriculture of a country thrives on. The question now is what will happen if all that water is suddenly gone? That in itself is a disturbing picture. Human beings are doing their utmost to destroy this source of life without which they can’t exist.
Annually a huge number of fresh water supplies are polluted causing water shortage. Their pollution is caused by dumping of toxic waste in fresh water supply by individuals and business alike – thereby making that water unusable. By 2025, it is expected that over one-third of the world will live in water-scarce areas – thus making water a prized commodity.
Scarcity of such a resource, and one as important as water, is very likely to turn it into a source of an international conflict. In the Middle East there is great consternation among people where according to the general rhetoric ‘the next war in the Middle East will be on water’. United Nations Environment Program, UNEP has identified the Arab countries as one of the most water-scarce in the world. It also indicated that the decline in per capita water availability will be affected further by the climate change.
And it’s not just the Middle East, situation in rest of the world is also very alarming. In the Indian sub-continent the presence of the Indus Water Treaty is to a large extent helping curb the threat of war between India and Pakistan. With the threat of Indian hegemony hanging onto Pakistan and India being the upper riparian – the threat for Pakistan is huge. Most are of an opinion that the treaty which saw through two major wars between India and Pakistan needs to be reviewed so that the vulnerability that Pakistan is facing by the hands of India is lessened.
In South East Asia and the Pacific region, more than 100 million people lack access to safe water and almost 185 million are without access to safe sanitation. It is estimated that annually more than 80,000 children die in the region from diseases caused by unpalatable water. Papua New Guinea is the worst off with only 39% of its people having access to clean water, followed closely by Cambodia and Laos with 41% and 51% of the people having access to safe, clean drinking water.
The sub-Saharan African region is also at a high risk. In 2002 Water ministers from 22 African countries called for regional and global alliance to tackle water problems. In an area where there is a great number of people who are poverty stricken, water shortage is already limiting their ability to grow their food. It remains to be seen whether a workable solution can be brought to give the world’s poorest a much needed respite.
Water is survival – in future they might even lead to wars among neighboring countries that face severe droughts and water shortages. The international community at large needs to stand up and take notice of this prized commodity. The problem of climate change needs to be tackled which will in turn set the things back in their correct order. The reality right now is that there is a looming crisis that the world might face in the next decade or so, where it is estimated that by year 2025 one out of three people will face severe water shortage – makes one wonder doesn’t it?