- BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Two scientists warned on Tuesday that world leaders
would have to address highly sensitive political issues in the coming 30
years to avoid wars over scarce water resources.
- Malin Falkenmark and David Schindler,
who were awarded the 1998 Volvo Environment Prize on Tuesday, warned of
looming freshwater shortages as population growth increased pressure on
supplies that were dwindling because of waste and pollution.
- Falkenmark, professor at the Swedish
Natural Science Research Council, told a press conference the population
of the world's cities was set to rise by over 2.1 billion -- the current
population of China and India combined -- by 2025.
- These people would all need water but
unless the factories and farms created to provide them with incomes and
food adopted environmentally friendly practices, they would pollute the
very water supplies on which these people depended, she explained.
- "We can see examples of cities collapsing
in the developing countries because the water is no longer useable,"
- Schindler, professor at Canada's Alberta
university, warned that although the use of persistent organic pollutants
like chlorine based pesticides and mercury was decreasing, at least in
the West, climate change and depletion of the planet's protective ozone
layer meant their effects on water, the environment and health were actually
- Global warming, blamed on emissions of
greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, was causing glaciers to melt, releasing
the pollutant chemicals that had built up within the ice during the 1960s
and 1970s, he said.
- Falkenmark said that over the next 30
years the world needed to do three things to stave off a global water crisis.
- Europe needed to be prepared to export
six times more food to dry developing countries with high birth rates,
she said. She said her research had shown that rainfall, already scarcer
than in the rich north, evaporated more quickly in these dry southern countries,
compounding their problems.
- Secondly, industry and agriculture had
to stop polluting water to the point that it became unuseable.
- And crucially, politicians needed to
address the conflict between the needs of populations living upstream of
river basins and those dwelling downstream. "We cannot just ignore
the problem just because it is politically sensitive," she said.
- Inefficient irrigation meant people living
downstream of China's Yellow River were deprived of water for 200 days
a year, while new industries set up to boost population in upstream regions
were polluting what resources remained.