Water Crisis: The looming global threat facing humankind

Climate change may be the umbrella term dominating conversations on environment and ecological challenges the world is facing, but one of its most immediate manifestations is water crisis.

The natural resource, which is believed to cover nearly 70 per cent of our planet, is often perceived to be in abundance and yet its shortage plagues everyday life of billions of people across the world. The reason- only 3 per cent world’s water is fresh water out of which two-thirds is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for use.

The “stressed” water systems have multiple contributing factors – growing human population and consequent increase in urbanisation, irrigation in agriculture, impact of climate change like drought and deficit rainfall besides rivers, lakes and aquifers drying up or becoming contaminated for domestic use.

With an ever increasing population comes increased pressure on resources, the economy and consumption patterns.

As per a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at least 50 per cent of the planet’s population – 4 billion people – deal with water shortfalls at least one month of the year. And by 2025, 1.8 billion people are likely to face what the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls “absolute water scarcity.”

The UN World Water Development Report 2024, released on March 22nd on the occasion of World Water Day said 2.2 billion people worldwide have no access to clean drinking water and 3.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation.

The facts and figures are not merely confined to paper. Over the past few weeks, taps are running dry in major cities like Mexico, Johannesburg in South Africa and Sicily in Italy. Spain, Malawi and Zambia are in a state of emergency due to drought fuelled by El Nino.

Closer home, India’s Silicon Valley Bengaluru has been grabbing headlines for acute water crisis. But so is the rest of Karnataka and many other major cities like Pune. The situation is only set to get worse with depleting groundwater levels and poor management, not to forget the burgeoning population.

The UNEP, however, suggests measures that can be undertaken to salvage the situation at hand and reduce the long-term consequences of the global crisis. Some of them are as follows:

1. Restoring natural spaces and ecosystems like wetlands, peatlands, aquifers and catchment areas through national policies to avert the impact of climate change

2. Judicious use of water for agriculture which accounts for nearly 70 per cent of fresh water globally. This includes adopting water-saving methods and encouraging plant-based diets with lesser water footprints.

3. Explore other sources of water like rainwater harvesting and reusing treated wastewater

4. Checking pollution levels in water and  devising treatment plans accordingly.
5. Devising policies keeping climate change in mind and working towards smart water management including protection and restoration of carbon sinks.
[This story is a part of ‘Punascha Pruthibi – One Earth. Unite for It’, an awareness campaign by Sambad Digital.]


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