Wars for fresh water possible already in near future

The world does not have enough clean water. In the coming decades, this problem will only grow. Billions of people live in conditions of deficiency of a key resource for survival. The areas that have large sources of drinking water, especially rivers and lakes, are being actively polluted by industrial activities and sewage.

Water problems in the world are usually discussed on specific dates. The latest World Water Forum was held in Marseilles under the slogan "Time for decisions." However, instead of discussing solutions, the participants talked about problems well known not only to professional ecologists.

"Fresh water is not used efficiently, in accordance with demand and needs. We still do not have full information on this matter, and water management is disorganized. In this regard, the future seems increasingly uncertain, and the risks become more significant," vaguely stated the message of head of UNESCO Irina Bokova to the forum participants.

According to the World Bank, nearly one billion people suffer from water shortages, and 700 million live under the conditions of water stress, i.e., they have between 1 thousand and 1.7 thousand cubic meters of water per year. The areas of ​​water stress appear primarily because of the inability of the human communities living on this territory to control their own numbers.

Within the last year over 20 million people worldwide have fled their homes in the areas deprived of water. Moving of such large masses of people cannot but raise the degree of social tension that inevitably will lead to a widening of the conflict and its transition to a military phase.

The former Soviet Central Asia is an example of such a potential war zone. When Moscow was in charge of the water management in the region, it tried to respect the interests of the republics. The current independent states tend to use water scarcity and control rivers as a potential lever of pressure on its neighbors.

According to the World Resources Institute, the thirteen most disadvantaged countries in the world in terms of water include Turkmenistan (206 cubic meters per person per year), Moldova (236 cubic meters), Uzbekistan (625 cubic meters) and Azerbaijan (972 cubic meters). At least three of the four countries are able to wage wars for water in terms of their human and military capabilities.

There are nations in the world that are unable to efficiently use water resources and actively destroy their own habitat, but also have significant military capability. On the Eurasian continent, examples of such states are India and, increasingly, China. These countries in the current decade will be among the regions experiencing water stress.

The example of existence under degraded ecosystems is the majority of countries in the Middle East and North Africa that once were the centers of agricultural production. Today's deserts on the territories of these countries were fertile lands a century ago that had been destroyed by predatory management.

The growth of water consumption in the coming decades will be associated primarily with an increase in demand for food. Approximately 70 percent of water consumed from the surface sources and ground water is used for irrigation of agricultural land. 20 percent is used in industry and only 10 percent - for domestic use, says a leading researcher at the Institute for Systems Analysis Renat Perelyet.

By 2050 the world's demand for food is expected to grow by 70 percent, and the demand for livestock products will particularly increase. Growth in food production will lead to the fact that global consumption of water in agriculture (which today accounts for 70 percent of fresh water) will increase by at least 19 percent, according to a UN report.

At the same time, in the past 50 years the extraction of groundwater in some areas has tripled, and these resources that are difficult to measure are getting drastically reduced.

At the moment, the world trend is a transfer of water-intensive agriculture to different areas through purchasing other water-bearing lands. Mostly such operations are carried out in Africa, but Russia is considered to be the main source of such resources, and it is also quietly selling off its land.

As noted in the report of the UN, by 2030, climate change could have a significant impact on food production in South Asia and South Africa. By 2070 water scarcity will be felt in Central and Southern Europe, and will affect 44 million people in that region alone. The short term number is three billion people living in the state of water stress as early as 2025.

Simply put, if mankind follows in line with current trends, environmental disasters and wars over water are inevitable. Only in the last 50 years some 40 conflicts over water with weapons have been recorded.

The Israeli-Syrian military conflict in 1964 went into history as "The War over the Water."

Possible solutions include: a rigid water management system; stringent requirements for purification of used water; transfer of agriculture to organic farming; the use of new technologies that reduce water-intensive products in all sectors; and dramatic birth control measures with consideration of the maximum possible load on the economy and water resources of the regions.

Amid growing thirst of the overpopulated regions of the world one can increasingly find the separation into territories with scarce and plentiful water resources. However, apart from the economic meaning, these classifications give rise to ideological context that provokes dangerous and not always sane ideas, for example, diversion plans for Siberian rivers.

Sergei Nikolayev.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov