March 23, 2008

UK warns of water wars

  Water will be source of war unless world acts now, warns minister

Published on Saturday, March 22, 2008.

Source: Independent UK - Ben Russell, Political Correspondent

The world faces a future of "water wars", unless action is taken to
prevent international water shortages and sanitation issues escalating
into conflicts, according to Gareth Thomas, the International
Development minister.

The minister's warning came as a coalition of 27 international
charities marked World Water Day, by writing to Gordon Brown demanding
action to give fresh water to 1.1 billion people with poor supplies. "If we
do not act, the reality is that water supplies may become the subject
of international conflict in the years ahead," said Mr Thomas. "We need
to invest now to prevent us having to pay that price in the future."

His department warned that two-thirds of the world's population will
live in water-stressed countries by 2025. The stark prediction comes
after the Prime Minister said in his national security strategy that
pressure on water was one of the factors that could help countries "tip
into instability, state failure or conflict".

The coalition of charities has appealed for a global effort to bring
running water to the developing world and supply sanitation to a
further 2.6 billion people. It said international action was needed to
prevent competition for water destabilising communities and escalating into
In their letter, the campaigners say: "Tackling the water and
sanitation crisis is essential if the 'Millennium Development Goal Call to
Action' is to be a success, otherwise progress on health, education and
environmental sustainability will be undermined. Each year 443 million
school days are lost globally to diarrhoea and 1.8 million children die
unnecessarily from these diseases.
"Investing in sanitation and water brings the greatest public health
gains of any single development intervention and delivers huge economic
returns. The G8 would do well to heed the development history of east
Asian countries that put tackling these issues at the forefront of
their national development efforts."
Ministers agree the world needs to take urgent action to avoid
missing Millennium Development Goals to halve the proportion of people
without access to safe drinking water by 2015. That target should be met,
although progress has been limited in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr Brown's security strategy said "rising temperatures together with
extreme weather will increase pressures on water supplies". It went on:
"A growing and increasingly urbanised global population will increase
demand for food and water, at the same time as climate change and other
trends put greater pressure on their supply.
"Already well over 1 billion people suffer from water shortages and
30 countries get more than a third of their water from outside their
borders. With climate change, those figures are likely to grow, increasing
the possibility of disputes."
Charlie Kronick, senior climate adviser at Greenpeace, said the whole
of sub-Saharan Africa, most of south Asia and western South America
were at risk of water shortages if global warming continues.
"There is no doubt that climate change is going to be potentially the
biggest source of water stress," he said. "If average global
temperatures go more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels you are
looking at 2 to 3 billion people potentially suffering water shortages. It's
a pretty serious business."

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