09/05/2020, 08.00
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Climate and demographics fuelling the water war in Asia

From Yemen to India, a quarter of the world’s population faces water shortages. A growing population and increasingly irregular rainfall are two important factors. At least 17 nations are currently under high-water stress due to the lack of water. By 2040, one in four children in the world will live in water-stressed areas.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – From Yemen to India, from parts of Central America to the African Sahel, a quarter of the world’s population suffers from chronic and serious water shortages, which are fuelling conflicts, social unrest and migrations.

With the world’s population growing and climate change bringing more irregular rainfall, including severe droughts, competition for scarcer water is growing, with serious consequences, experts say.

“If there is no water, people will start to move,” warns Dutch expert Kitty van der Heijden. Water shortages will lead to water hoarding and new wars.

According to the United States-based World Resources Institute (WRI), 17 countries face “extremely high” levels of water stress, while more than two billion people live in countries experiencing “high” water stress.

One in four children worldwide will be living in areas of extremely high-water stress by 2040, researchers estimate.

In terms of water availability, “at some point we are going to hit the wall, and that wall might be different in different places”, Heijden said.

India’s Chennai and South Africa’s Cape Town have for example battled severe water shortages in recent years related in part to erratic rainfall.

Disputes over water have for millennia served as a flashpoint, driving political instability and conflict, water experts said.

And “the risks of water-related disputes are growing,” notes Peter Gleick, co-founder of the California-based Pacific Institute.

Water systems are also increasingly becoming targets in other types of conflicts, like the war in Yemen, not to mention the conflicts in Somalia, Iraq, and Syria, with all this leaving millions without safe water to drink or grow crops.

One way to tackle water scarcity is to use it more rationally in agriculture, which absorbs more than two-thirds of the water used by people each year, experts say.

In some drought-hit areas, farmers are switching to more efficient sprinkler or drip irrigation, and are using remote monitoring tools to make sure they apply just the right amount of moisture at the right time and in the right place.

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