Sunday, August 29, 2010
what happens when the rivers run dry?
Our taps run dry each morning at the moment – the water returns only about 07.00 when I finally flush the toilet and scamper around filling 3 litre plastic bottles. Hopefully things will return to normal next week – when the holiday-makers return to their homes in the plain where the temperatures are slowly subsiding (to 32 or so). But, according to Fred Pearce’s What happens when the Rivers run dry? , there will be no return to normal for us globally. I am at the early stages of this book – but am already stunned at some of the statistics. I had not realised that it takes 2,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of coffee – and countries like Ethiopa and Brazil can ill-afford the export of such “virtual water”. Nor had I appreciated that the “Green Revolution” of the 1970s – which dramatically increased crops and saved the fate of many nations – was not only wasteful of water but in most places has been draining water aquafers which take decades in most case to refill. I knew about the damage which dams had inflicted – both directly (by alteration of biodiversity) and indirectly (when so many Chinese dams, for example, collapsed in the 1970s and 1980s killing millions) – but had not appreciated how the hydraulic works can go wrong - eg those in the Indus valley started by the Brits in the 1930s and continued by The World Bank after Pakistan gained its independence set off effects which have totally poisoned the soil and forced mass migration. It is so ironic to read of the plight of these people 3 years ago who chose to remain without adequate water or livelihoods now swept away in floods whose effect is reckoned to be larger than the last 3 greatest natural disasters (The Tsunami, the Haiti and Kasmir earthquakes )
I find it strange that there is so little coverage has been given to the water issue – compared with that of climate change. I mentioned recently Ricardo Petrella’s concern 20 years ago - but have seen little discussion of the issue in the media since then. If ever we wanted an example of counterproductivity in public policy=making this is it!