Tackling water woes a major challenge - GulfToday

Tackling water woes a major challenge

Drinking water

Three out of every four jobs globally depend on water in some way, including small-scale farmers who produce 80% of the world’s food. Reuters

There is no doubt that water is a very precious asset, like gold. In several countries, water has a very high value, but unfortunately is scarce. This is because population growth and climate change are putting a lot of strain on the planet’s limited water supplies.

Ensuring that more people have access to a stable, safe water supply will be a major challenge because politics has been reported creating a stumbling block in water access and distribution.

Getting water use right in an increasingly parched world is crucial, said Olcay Unver, vice chair of UN-Water, a coordinating agency on water issues for the United Nations, not long ago.

Three out of every four jobs globally depend on water in some way, including small-scale farmers who produce 80 per cent of the world’s food, said Unver, who is also a water adviser for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

By 2050, FAO estimates food demand globally will rise by 50% but “we don’t have 50% more water to allocate to agriculture”, he noted, adding it is already the dominant water user. Demand for water is also surging in fast-growing cities, where more than half of people live now and over two-thirds are expected to live by 2050.

Water scarcity could lead to conflict between communities and nations.

More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, and expanding population mean that many nations such as India face serious water shortages. In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams and nuclear plants.

A government think-tank report in 2018, when India suffered what was called the worst water crisis in its history, predicted that at least 40 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion population will have no reliable access to drinking water by 2030. Changing that will likely require not just government efforts to shore up water security but community ones, conceived and carried out by residents, climate adaptation experts say.The overarching problem is the coronavirus. Washing hands requires clean water, yet more than 2 billion people globally lack access to it, according to the UN. Industrial and agricultural pollution either makes that worse or increases the cost of treating it. Such horrendous numbers are even scarier during a global pandemic. Providing access to clean water will cost almost $420 billion a year over the next decade.

When a lack of clean water causes a cholera outbreak or food shortage in a poor country, say, it’s easy for rich-world policymakers and consumers to see it as someone else’s concern. When what’s at stake is a highly contagious virus capable of crossing the globe, water shortages anywhere become everyone’s problem.

Handwashing has never been so popular. It’s one of the main ways to avoid catching the coronavirus, but it could also bump shortages, especially in the developing world, up the agenda.

In this respect, The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Water Award identifies sustainable solutions to the global water scarcity problem and provide the afflicted, the needy and disadvantaged people with access to clean drinking water.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched this award, which is organised by UAE Water Aid Foundation (Suqia) under the umbrella of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives. To fulfil this mission, it supports research activities to develop innovative new technologies dedicated to producing, distributing, storing, monitoring, desalinating and purifying water using renewable energy.

The $1 million award boosts the global standing of Dubai and the UAE as a catalyst for innovation, a hub for innovators and an incubator for creators from across the world.

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