The risks of water, or lack of it - GulfToday

The risks of water, or lack of it


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Water is a staple part of everyone’s lives, without which a lot of people’s lives could be in jeopardy. But the floods in Europe and China have shown the damaging impact of global warming. Perhaps nowhere is this more pronounced than in Germany whose network of rivers and canals is the most widespread in Europe, which carts around 200 million tonnes of freight each year.

The floods triggered by torrential rain put an end to any kind of complacency.

The floods have caused immense damage in Germany, worth tens of billions of dollars. Mountains of garbage, cars crushed, dust-laden atmosphere have been a regular sight.

Even China was no less. The country saw a year’s rainfall in 3 days, in which over 50 people were killed in Zhengzhou, many of whom had a watery grave in a subway. The rain was described by the Chinese media as happening once in a thousand years.

A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) finds that of the 10 disasters causing the most human fatalities in the past 50 years, drought topped the list with some 650,000 deaths across the globe.

The storms saw losses of over 500 billion dollars, while floods saw a $115b dent in the exchequer. The floods in Germany that took place nearly 20 years ago saw over $16b in losses.

Across the continent, there were over 1,600 recorded disasters which led to 160,000 deaths.

“Weather and water-related risks are spiralling due to climate change, the top official at the World Meteorological Organization said.

The torrential rainfall and devastating flooding led to tragic loss of lives and financial damage. The rise in mercury levels, that lead to heatwaves in North America, are a glaring manifestation of global warming.

Petteri Taalas laid by way of example a recent analysis that climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, made the heatwave at least 150 times more likely to happen.

No country is immune to such changes.

If the floods don’t batter the lives of people, water scarcity does. The planet has limited amount of water, but the growing number of people and climate change are making this problem all the more acute.

But making it a point to see that more and more people can be given safe, even potable, water is a major task, as access to water is linked to political considerations and culture.

Three out of every four jobs globally depend on water in some way or the other.

A report two years ago said by 2050, FAO estimates food demand all over the globe will go north by 50% but “we don’t have 50% more water to allocate to agriculture”, Olcay Unver, vice chair of UN-Water, said.

The problem is that global warming can mean more erratic rainfall, with many areas pummelled by floods and drought, so providing water to everyone is truly difficult.

But some countries are coming up with innovative ways to supply water.

In India’s Gujarat state, for instance, much of the year’s rain comes during the monsoons.

Some farmers have begun gathering leftover straw after harvest and piling it in low-lying spots in their fields to absorb and hold excess rain, allowing it to slowly filter into the groundwater, he said.

Water access is already hugely unequal. According to one report, Americans use 700-900 litres daily, Europeans about 200 litres and many of the world’s poorest just 10-15 litres.Reliable access to water is very important. It will put an end to many ills of society, such as poverty and hunger, even cut down on inequality.

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