Water crisis: A war of 21st century


The water crisis is one of the biggest and the contemporary challenge of the 21st century, heading countries towards the edge of war. However; significant water management policies coupled with their effective implementations will be fruitful.
Our planet Earth is 71% covered with water, 97% of this water is in our oceans which is not useful for drinking purposes. Out of 3%, 2% is in the frozen form and only 1% is physically accessible water is present in the form of rivers, lakes, and stream.
70% of the available fresh water is used by Agricultural sector worldwide. Agriculture is the back-bone of South-Asian countries which have 62% of earth’s population. Countries which produces more food, uses more water. According to the United Nation (UN)’s report, around 45%of fresh water in agriculture is used by India, Russia, South Africa, China and Brazil. India in 2010 was the top most country which uses 700 billion m3/year fresh water. To meet his demand, India uses extensive energy to pump out water from underground Aquifers, which reduces the water table in the earth.
Industries consume a major chunk of freshwater around 19%. After the industrial revolution, demand for freshwater has considerably increased. The textile industry needs a frequent supply of fresh water during the production and dying of fabrics. The steam engine, Nuclear Power plants, paints, dairy, and the food industry, all need water in ample quantity. According to the UN’s report in 2010 US was ranked 1st with 300 billion m3/year freshwater consumption in the industrial sector. On the contrary; China, as the “Manufacturing Hub of the World”, successfully maintained 2nd position.
United Nation has warned 11 countries which may face severe water scarcity it includes India, Mexico, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, etc. Middle Eastern region will be going to face worst of all, who are already staggering due to civil war, political and governance crises. By 2025 2/3 of the world population is going to face a water crisis, warned by the UN.
Pollution is the major triggering factor in future water crises and this problem is due to the poor policies of water management authorities. All industrial and domestic sewage are directly dumped into freshwater bodies without prior treatment. This gives rise to serious water-borne and food-borne diseases such as Polio, Diarrhea, cholera, typhoid; etc.it exponentially increases the infant mortality rate. Water containing harmful waste from factories produces poisonous agricultural crops. It also damages the agricultural area and its production rate which leads to Famine. 41 million people in the world are already facing famine in 43 countries including Yemen, Ethiopia, Madagascar, etc. and the UN shows concern about Nigeria Sudan, and Somalia too. The point of concern is that it was just 27 million 2 years ago; this rise in famine is disastrous.
The main cause of the water crisis is the non-serious attitude of powerful countries like the USA, China, and Russia. Former US president Mr. Donald J. Trump withdraws from Paris Climate Agreement in 2017(Biden in 2021 has re-entered). China who is 2nd larger carbon emitter in the world has not signed this agreement yet. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has approved the draining of sewage in Lake Baikal which is the 4th largest freshwater reservoir in the world.
South Asian region has poor infrastructure, 60% of agricultural water wastes due to leaky irrigation pipelines, and the land becomes swampy which could not be cultivated.
Pakistan since its inception was a water surplus country, had 5700m3 water per capita. Pakistan had the world’s best tube wale and canal system, but due to poor governance and some political motives, this system was destroyed. In 2020, according to the UN, per capita water in Pakistan has reached 1017m3. And the threshold of water scarcity is 1000m3.water crisis is like a nightmare, looming in Pakistan.
Climate change is hand-in-hand with the water crisis. Due to climate change, the earth’s average temperature has risen, glaciers are melting at a higher pace resulting in an elevation in sea level, and the survival of Island countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Japan, etc. is in danger. Floods, tsunami, and forest fires become more frequent in these areas. Due to extreme weather patterns, some areas receive more rain and some are facing drought. Deforestation is being carried out, which reduces precipitation and increases the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
In the 21st century, the water crisis may led to world war III as water is important for human life. Water may become more precious than oil or any other energy resource. Vice president of the World Bank Ismail Serageldin once said “War of next century will be over water unless significant changes in governance occurred”. Many politicians have predicted this war many times in the past. Egyptian Foreign Minister said, “The next war in the Middle East will be over water, not on politics”.
There are certain interstate and intrastate water conflicts around the globe which at any time can turn into fire. These conflicts are mainly due to the transboundary water resources amongst countries. In the Middle East, the Euphrates and Tigris rivers are the sources of conflict among Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. In Africa, the Nile River is disputed among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
In Asia, almost all the countries have transboundary water resources which often become the source of aggression within them. Pakistan has its major water resources shared with India in the east, since 1947, it is a frequent cause of conflicts between these two rivals; this problem was solved in 1960 by “Indus Water Treaty”.
The Ethiopian government has approved to build off a Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, which was denied by Egypt. In 2020 Ethiopian Prime Minister said, “no force can stop Ethiopia from building a dam, if it needs to go to the war, then we could get millions to are readied”. These types of statements from the politicians are the open challenge to war.
In 2020 China has built 11 dams on the Mekong River which causes water scarcity threats to basin countries like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. In 2018 water level in the Mekong River was the lowest in 100 years even in Monsoon.
To counter water Crisis at grass- root level, first there should be an investment in the infrastructure. Obsolete and old pipelines should be replaced with new. Separate pipelines for sanitary and drinking purposes. Leakage in irrigation canal system waste 60% of agricultural water. Water reservoirs like dams and lakes should be built and maintain properly so as to store the rainwater. Dams also generate electricity, reduce fossil fuel combustion, and ultimately help cope with climate change.
An international body, as like International Penal for Climate change (IPCC) should be made for water management too. Local water management authorities should be made, along with new policies which are effective and executable. Recently, Strategic Foresight Group in collaboration with Switzerland and Sweden has introduced “Blue peace”, which sees transboundary water conflicts as an instrument of corporation and peace. This may help to solve the water conflicts of the Middle East.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats to freshwater reservoirs, use of fossil fuels should be discouraged, and culprits should be penalized for their excessive carbon emission. Electric vehicles must be promoted along with Green-Energy. Steam engines can be replaced with other mechanical ones. The use of freshwater in Nuclear power plants should be restricted.
More investment in Research and Development in order to develop new and economical methods consuming the least amount of water is the need of time. Industrial waste’s prior treatment before dumping should be legitimized. This indirectly helps to save the biodiversity and ecosystem of the earth. Afforestation can also help in coping with the water crisis in a fantastic manner, as trees absorb more Carbon dioxide gas, and prevent climate change. The use of plastics should be banned; Environment friendly, biodegradable plastic bags should be promoted which helps to reduce pollution of water and its ultimate waste.
People should be educated about water management, new ideas to reduce the waste of water. Water should be brought inside the tax net, it will help to generate revenue and also prevent the waste of water. This was also practiced in California (state of the US) where water tax was charged, and ultimately its demand was exclusively reduced.
In the meantime, Population growth should be controlled. People should give awareness about family planning and its benefits; in this regard, local health workers should participate and cooperate by all means. Decline in growth curve will help to reduce the rising demand of water and other life commodities.
Recycling should be encouraged socially at each level in the community;good and recycling practices should be adopted. Like Singapore, who recycled 100% water.
New cheap methods for desalination of sea water introduced which are economical.
The water crisis is not a myth, it may hit worst, than our expectations, the global south, comprising 88% of the world’s population may suffer more from this than the global north and at any time in the future, their water conflicts may turn in to war. Unless, effective and aforementioned policies like population control, infrastructural development, and measures of coping with climate change, come into execution, the world is in danger. In this way, we may prevent the world from forecasted war.

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