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  • » 08/31/2004, 00.00

    ASIA

    Scientists sound alarm over water crisis



    Water use in Asia outstrips rainfall.

    Hong Kong (AsiaNews/AFP) – "Farmers are driving Asian countries towards an environmental catastrophe, using tube wells that are sucking groundwater reserves dry," New Scientist writes. According to the British scientific journal "[t]ens of millions of these wells have been drilled over the past decade, many of them beyond any official control, and powerful electric pumps are being used to haul up the water at a rate that far outstrips replenishment by rainfall." The journal goes on to say that "[t]he extraction is providing many countries with a lavish harvest in thirsty crops like rice, sugar cane and alfalfa, but the boom is bound to be short-lived."

    The journal is not alone. Its words echo the alarm bells set off at a conference on water resources held last week in Stockholm (Sweden). Scientists attending the Stockholm Water Symposium warned in fact that water resources are being depleted at an alarming rate world-wide. They expect that, in a very short time, some parts of the earth could dry up and turn into desert.

    In India, for example, small farmers have already driven 21 million tube wells into their fields and the number of such wells is increasing by a million a year. Half of the country's traditional hand-dug wells have instead run dry pushing many farmers to take their lives out of desperation.

    New Scientist reports that in China's northern plain –the country's breadbasket– farmers are extracting 30 cubic kilometres more water each year than are being replaced by rain. In June state-owned newspaper China Daily acknowledged that the country could "plunge into a water crisis" by 2030 when its population is expected to peak at 1.6 billion.

    The tube-well revolution has spread to water-stressed countries like Pakistan and Vietnam whose precious underground reserves are being used without much supervision. New Scientist writes that "Vietnam has quadrupled its number of tube wells in the past decade to one million, [whilst] water tables are plunging in the Pakistani state of Punjab, which produces 90 per cent of the country's food." (DS)

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    See also

    23/12/2004 CHINA
    ‘Catastrophic’ drought forecast for China next year


    03/08/2007 PHILIPPINES
    Water crisis: Manila prays for rain
    Despite the monsoon rains, entire areas of the country are facing the risk of drought. Cardinal Rosales has written an Oratio Imperate that will be recited in all churches of the archdiocese. Among the causes is an ever increasing demand for water for a population in a state of constant growth.

    18/08/2006 CHINA
    Drought leaves more than ten million people without water
    Entire cities are left without drinking water which must be rationed and trucked in from neighbouring areas. Temperatures have hit all-time highs causing crop losses. Heat wave is expected to continue for several more days.

    22/03/2007 UNITED NATIONS – WORLD WATER D
    Two-thirds of world to face water crisis by 2025
    UN warns on World Water Day that pollution and mismanagement of water resources are among the main factors causing draughts. North Africa, the Middle East and western Asia are the most affected regions.

    26/05/2011 CHINA
    Three Gorges Dam blamed for China’s worst drought in 50 years
    Rainfall has been low for months as hot weather prevails. Seven provinces and Shanghai are experiencing water shortages. Rice and grain production are at risk. The Three Gorges Dam set to release 5 billion cubic metres. Since the dam was built, drought has become more frequent and long lasting. Experts believe the two to be correlated.



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