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Scrutiny
  
A river (used to) run through it
The biggest issue of this century will be preservation of water
23/07/2009

Mark Twain (in an editorial by Charles D. Warner, Hartford Courant, in 1897) said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” 112 years ago, Warner’s op-ed quoted that if you are in Colorado, it’s illegal to divert rainwater falling on your property unless you have a very old water right or when the weather is “very happy.” In other words, you could not harvest rainwater for personal use. Surprise surprise. The situation’s the same even now in Colorado.

Interestingly, many other states in the US are reportedly taking steps now to set up similar rules. UK goes one-step further and fines anyone using hosepipes (a 1,000 pounds fine). On the other extreme is New Mexico, which makes it mandatory for new dwellings to harvest water. So what’s our drift? The drift is that today, one third of the world’s population is suffering from water shortages; and by 2025, as per UN, two out of three people would undergo “water stress.” BBC predicts water wars to happen in the near future while in West Africa, Ganges-Brahmaputra belt, and in Peru there already seems to be a huge risk of violent conflict. David Zhang, a geographer at Hong Kong University, had analysed 8,000 wars over 500 years and concluded that water shortage had played a far greater role as a catalyst in these wars than previously supposed. It’s a wonder today that nations have not yet declared diplomatic wars.

On the positive side, as UN Water comments, “The world’s six billion people are appropriating 54 percent of all the accessible freshwater contained in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers.” That means that there is still a huge scope for optimal sourcing of freshwater. But as in the case of food, there has to be a globally coordinated effort to fight water scarcity. Though UN Water is a body focused on the issue (they have good policy papers), yet the organisation has still not even identified strategic issues and priorities. What’re they waiting for? Ice Age 4?

By:- Sray Agarwal
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