WATER IS THE BASIS FOR THE WELL-BEING AND PROSPERITY OF PEOPLES

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Опубликовано в библиотеке: 2023-06-22
Источник: Asia and Africa today 2007 № 6

CHOL DENG ALAK (Sudan)

ESPECIALLY IN ASIA AND AFRICA, WHERE A LACK OF IT CAN LEAD TO ACUTE CONFLICTS AND SOCIAL UPHEAVALS.

According to many experts, the lack of water and the struggle for the possession of its sources can become one of the main causes of wars in the century that has just begun. Today, more than a billion people lack it in one form or another. Some people lack water for irrigation of fields, others-to ensure the normal operation of industrial equipment, others-to maintain normal sanitary and hygienic conditions in everyday life-for washing clothes, cooking, etc. The most acute situation with water supply to the population has developed in the Asia-Pacific region, including in the United States. Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand, as well as in the Middle East in the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates basins.

At first glance, there is a lot of water on our planet. To do this, just take a quick look at the globe: most of it is blue, meaning water spaces. Indeed, 94% of the water available on Earth is concentrated in the world's oceans. Another 4% is groundwater, 1.6% is ice and snow surrounding the North and South Poles, and only 0.4% is water from rivers, lakes and swamps. It is from these 0.4% that humanity draws water for its activities. In total, people annually consume 3.5 thousand cubic kilometers of water from various sources, mainly from rivers. But only 1.4 thousand cubic kilometers are returned to these sources, mostly in a highly polluted state.

Of course, the river water reserves are far from exhausted. But the whole point is that the resources of this water are distributed over the Earth extremely unevenly. The use of river runoff is also uneven.

Despite the huge untapped potential of river water around the world, however, in Europe, a large part of the United States, as well as in the Indian Ganges River basin and in the north-eastern provinces of China, the availability of this water now roughly corresponds to the level of its consumption - there is no need to talk about any surplus. And most other regions, alas, are experiencing water scarcity, although the reasons for this shortage are different. In some cases, this is an unfavorable climate, frequent droughts; in others, too rapid population growth with limited available water resources. To these "misfortunes" in recent decades, the so - called "greenhouse effect" has been added-the root cause of climate change in many parts of the world. Moreover, these changes are not necessarily reduced to a drought, and if in some places, indeed, it became very hot, then others are flooded with torrential rains, which is also not considered normal. Today, environmental scientists are highly likely to predict how much water will be available per capita in different countries by the end of the first quarter of the 21st century. Table 1 below shows such data for different countries in Africa and the Middle East.

WATER AS A SOURCE OF CONFLICTS AND DISPUTES

What conclusions can be drawn from the data presented in this table? The main thing that cannot be ignored is the extremely uneven distribution of water resources across individual countries, and this unevenness increases over time,which means that the probability of crises in relations between states and even armed clashes increases. In fact, such crises are already taking place. For example, the Nile River flows through nine African countries, and disputes between them over the scale and nature of the use of the waters of this river have been going on for many years. Egypt and Sudan have especially many problems with the use of Nile waters. Located in the lower reaches of the river, they clearly do not receive enough water, and moreover it is very polluted, as it is used to irrigate fields in states located in the middle and upper part of the Nile.

Many misunderstandings about river water arise between states located in the basins of the Zambezi River (flows through the territory of 8 countries) and Niger (10

Table 1

Water availability in 1990 and 2025 in selected countries of the African continent and the Middle East

A country

Cubic meters of water per year per capita

in 1990.

in 2025

Africa

 

 

Algeria

750

380

Egypt

1070

620

Ethiopia

2360

980

Kenya

590

190

Libya

160

60

SOUTH AFRICA

1420

790

Middle East

 

 

Israel

470

310

Jordan

260

80

Lebanon

1600

960



page 26


countries). In particular, the "water dispute" between Mauritania and Senegal has become very acute. For many years, there have been "showdowns" between Syria and Turkey over the use of the waters of the Euphrates River. Experts believe that a different vision of how the waters of the Jordan, Litany, Yarmouk and other rivers in the region are used was one of the reasons for the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1967 and the clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in our time. In some cases, the subject of inter-State disputes is not river waters, but aquifers, for the use of which artesian wells are drilled. Egypt and Libya have long debated whether aquifers in border areas are being used correctly or incorrectly.

Although most of these disagreements are many decades old, analysts conclude that the nature of emerging "water conflicts" and, so to speak, their "themes" have changed markedly in recent years. If earlier the states - "users" of water resources sought to increase the" quotas " of water for agricultural purposes, mainly for irrigation, now water is considered as a source of solution to many other economic problems. Let's look at some of them.

IF THERE IS NOT ENOUGH WATER...

Energy industry. As you know, now the main source of commercial electricity is oil - it accounts for 38% of this electricity. This is followed by coal - 30%, natural gas - 20%, hydropower - 7%, nuclear power - 5%. As you can see, the share of hydroelectric power stations as a source of electricity is relatively small. But it will undoubtedly increase. Firstly, due to the natural depletion of hydrocarbon reserves; secondly, due to the inevitable increase in oil and gas prices in the foreseeable future. Rivers, as sources of hydroelectric power, are not in danger of depletion of their natural resource - water.

That is why it is not difficult to predict that the cause of inter-State conflicts will eventually become a struggle for the ownership of rivers or individual sections of rivers that carry the greatest energy potential. It is especially difficult to solve such problems in cases where natural borders between countries run along riverbeds. There are many such borders in Africa. And as the economic potentials of the continent's states grow, there will be more than enough reasons for conflicts between them "on hydroelectric grounds".

Deforestation. The decline in tropical forest areas has been truly catastrophic in recent decades. It is generally accepted that the main reason for this is human productive activity, ruthless deforestation in Africa and Asia. However, satellite images suggest that it is not just predatory tree felling that leads to the reduction of forest land. Part of the rainforest is also disappearing where the "woodcutter's axe" has not yet reached. They are dying from draining swamps in the vicinity of woodlands, from impoverishment and lowering the level of rivers, the disappearance of lakes, streams and rivers. And all this is also the result of human economic activity, although not directly in the field of logging, but in related areas of management.

If in the 80s of the last century the area of tropical forests decreased annually by an average of 11.4 million hectares, then at the beginning of the new century this figure reached 20.4 million hectares. Forest areas are declining particularly rapidly in India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, and in Latin America - in Brazil and Costa Rica.

The destruction of tropical forests leads to a reduction in the replenishment of rivers with water. It is in the jungle that there are innumerable springs, whose water, merging into streams and rivers, replenishes both the Nile and the Niger. After cutting down trees, they disappear, and rivers located near forest clearings become shallow, exacerbating water shortages in a number of countries. This problem needs to be thoroughly studied, and States engaged in logging should take into account all the consequences of ill-conceived policies in this industry.

Unfortunately, in some cases, it is probably too late to take any practical measures to correct the shortcomings of management... So, before the Second World War, forests in the Philippines occupied 16 million hectares. Now there are no more than 1 million hectares of them left, and it seems that they will soon disappear completely. Especially predatory forests were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s, when the then President of the country, Ferdinand Marko, distributed plots for harvesting timber to his relatives and friends, top military leaders. A lot of time was also spent on paying off the huge external debt, primarily of Japan. And although the political regime in the Philippines has changed since then, the new leaders of the state have not yet managed to organize the restoration of the country's forest resources on the proper scale.

Deterioration of the quality of agricultural land. Currently, the total area of arable land on the planet reaches 1.5 billion hectares. There are potential opportunities to increase it to 3.2-3.4 billion hectares, although all the best land has already been developed. Water scarcity means that farmers in many countries are deprived of the opportunity to apply the best, most advanced technological methods of agriculture. And this, in turn, leads to the fact that the quality of the land worsens, it becomes infected with pests and weeds. As a result, productivity decreases, and people are forced to involve more and more new territories in agricultural turnover, i.e. to develop so-called extensive methods of farming. This has led to the fact that, for example, in Asia, 82% of potentially arable land is already involved in turnover, and the fields have almost nowhere to grow. Although most of them are unproductive, the lack of water for irrigation further reduces the quality of land and its real return.

However, a similar situation is typical for other regions-

page 27


geons of the planet. For example, in Bulgaria, 80% of cultivated land suffers from water and wind erosion, and up to 100 square kilometers are eliminated from agricultural turnover every year. In Russia, about 50 million hectares of fields are saline, swampy or flooded by ground water.

Depletion of fish stocks. Shallowing rivers, reducing water runoff, and reducing its quality due to human economic activity leads to a decrease in fish stocks both in rivers and lakes, as well as in the seas and oceans. Currently, the annual offspring of sea and river fish is estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to be about 100 million tons, but the annual demand for fish and fish products at the beginning of the new century exceeds this level and reaches 113-125 million tons; by 2025. it will exceed 160 million tons. And if urgent legislative measures are not taken, and at the international level, fish in rivers, seas and oceans will simply disappear... By the way, many valuable fish species have already been exterminated, and we are heading straight for a "fishing disaster".

For example, in the Black Sea back in 1960, 26 species of fish were caught, and now-only 5. Commercial fishing for mackerel, which once formed the basis of the Black Sea fishing industry, was last carried out in 1965. The population of Black Sea dolphins, numbering more than a million individuals, decreased in 30 years to 200 thousand. Istanbul, which now has more than 9 million inhabitants, is dumping waste and sewage into the Sea of Marmara. It is no coincidence that cholera outbreaks have been reported from time to time in the Black Sea states in recent years.

WHAT WILL PEOPLE OF FUTURE GENERATIONS SAY ABOUT US?

The problems discussed above are most acute in the countries of Asia and Africa. But, of course, not only in them. In the vast majority of countries, people do not care too much about the reasonable, rational use of water. Almost everywhere, the so-called irretrievable consumption of water is growing, when it, after human use, cannot be cleaned and turns into unrecoverable waste. The relevant data in this regard are given in table 2.

This is not to say that the world community does not pay attention to these issues. 15 years ago, in 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held, which addressed a wide range of issues related to the protection of nature. Its participants paid a lot of attention to the rivers and water resources of the planet in general. Article 21 of the resolution explicitly states that " ... environmental impact increases as a result of our economic behavior and can only be exploited through behavioral changes."

It is estimated that since 1920, the world has concluded more than 140 international treaties and conventions related to environmental protection in one way or another. And yet, the" ecological degradation " of the planet is not only not decreasing, but it seems to be gaining momentum. What does this mean? The fact that governments and statesmen of many countries have succeeded in developing legal norms in the field of ecology, but they have not been engaged in mechanisms for implementing these norms, as well as monitoring the implementation of international treaties. Even if we assume that not all the regulatory documents mentioned above are of proper quality, and also taking into account the fact that some of them are outdated, the situation still looks scandalous: humanity cannot join forces in solving the problems on which its survival actually depends in the future.

The UN Environment Commission once defined the sustainable development of civilization as follows: "Sustainable is the development of a civilization in which the satisfaction of the life needs of the current generation is achieved without limiting such opportunities for future generations."

It is not without regret that future generations of people are unlikely to positively assess the attitude of the modern generation to water, which is truly one of the main treasures of humanity.

Table 2

Water distribution and consumption by continent (total/non-refundable)

Continent

Average annual river flow (cubic km)

Water consumption cubic km / year

% to runoff

1970

2000

1970

2000

Europe

3210

320/100

730/240

10/3,1

23/7,5

Asia

14410

1500/1130

3200/2000

10,4/7,6

22,7/13,9

Africa

4570

130/100

380/250

2,8/2,2

8,3/5,5

North

8200

540/160

1300/280

6,6/2,0

15,8/3,4

South America

11760

70/50

300/130

0,6/0,4

2,5/2,1

America

 

 

 

 

 

Australia and Oceania

2390

23/12

60/30

1,0/0,5

2,5/2,1

Total

46540

2583/1552

5970/2930

5,8/3,4

13/6,7




Source: V. V. Glukhov, T. P. Nekrasova. Economic fundamentals of ecology. 3rd ed. of St. Petersburg. "Peter". 2003. p. 72.


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