By Prof. (Dr.) Sohan Raj Tater
WATER is a source of life of every living organism. Without water living beings cannot survive their lives. There is 60 per cent water in human gross body. It is a natural resource that sustains our environments and supports livelihood. Water is the blue gold, and that future wars will be fought for water. So, not a single drop of water received from rain should be allowed to escape into the sea without being utilised for human benefit.
The vast majority of the earth’s water resources have got salty water, with only 2.5 per cent being fresh water. Approximately 70 per cent of fresh water available on planet is in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland leaving the remaining 0.7 per cent of total water resources worldwide available for consumption. However from this 0.7 per cent, roughly 87 per cent is allocated to agricultural purposes. These statistics are particularly illustrative of the drastic problem of water scarcity facing humanity. Water scarcity is defined as per capita supplies less than 1,700 M3/year.
The comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture revealed that one in three people are already facing water shortage (2007). Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, while another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers); nearly all of which are in the developing countries.
Agriculture is a significant cause of water scarcity in much of the world since crop production requires upto 70 times more water than is used in drinking and other domestic purposes. The report says that a rule of thumb is that each calorie consumed as food requires about one litre of water to produce.
The amount of water in the world is finite. Population is growing fast and our water use is growing even faster. A third of world’s population lives in water stressed countries now. By 2025, this is expected to rise to two-third. The UN recommends that people need a minimum of 50 litres of water a day for drinking, washing, cooking and sanitation. In 1990, over a billion people did not have even that.
There are four main factors aggravating water scarcity:
* Population Growth : In the last century, world population has tripled. It is expected to rise from the present 6.5 billions to 8.9 billions by 2050. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and although there is no global water scarcity as such, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water.
* Increased urbanisation will focus on the demand for water among an over more concentrated population. Asian citizen alone are expected to grow by one billion people in the next 20 years.
* High level of consumption: As the world becomes more developed, the amount of domestic water that each person used is expected to rise significantly.
* Climate change will shrink the resources of fresh water.
(To be concluded)