The British risk consultancy firm Maplecroft recently released an index evaluating clean water supplies in 165 countries, in an effort to help support responsible business stewardship when investing in water-scarce areas.
The report cited the most vulnerable nations as being in the continents of Africa and Asia, with Somalia, Mauritania, Sudan, Niger and Iraq among the most resource-depleted.
However, the Australia, the United States and even countries in Europe such as Bulgaria, Belgium and Spain were also cited as showing signs of water stress. The report highlighted the pressures of population growth and worsening climate change leading to shifts in rainfall and drying reservoirs and rivers, which aggravates existing water shortages and affects farming, industry and household activities.
In addition, tensions could arise over decisions about water being allocated from dams and upstream rivers in water-scarce areas, with regions such as Pakistan, Egypt and Uzbekistan already seeing related internal and cross-border conflicts. American journalist Steven Solomon, author of “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization,” has observed that the resource continues to be used wastefully even as the world’s supplies are diminishing.
He estimates that within 15 years, 3.5 billion people will be living in countries unable to feed themselves mainly because of water. Leading water expert and former advisor to the European Commission Dr. Riccardo Petrella has also cautioned of this threat. The Lisbon Group on Institutions and Public Policy founder and author of “The Water Manifesto” shared his thoughts about water as a shared resource.
Dr. Riccardo Petrella – President of the International Committee for a World Water Contract, former European Commission and UNESCO advisor (M): In the past, our societies are civilized because we accepted the idea that water was a public good, a common good. There are 265 major water basins in the world. 263 are trans-national. So if you want to have access to water, if you want to benefit agriculture, industry, tourism, your own wellbeing, and last but not least, particularly life; to drink, to have your own sanitation system, etc., water is a common good.
VOICE: Dr. Petrella went on to express his wish that these essential resources of the planet would be sustained in the public interest, managed by communities with international rules to protect water resources from exploitation and pollution.
Dr. Riccardo Petrella (M): Water is natural, belonging to everybody, it’s an heritage of life. Amongst the rights, I include as well the right of the Earth. Water is part of the life on the Earth. We have not produced the life on the Earth. We don’t produce forests. So when you destroy a primary forest tree, you cannot reconstruct it. You cannot reconstruct the biodiversity. Once you have destroyed biodiversity, you have destroyed it, full stop. So water is life, is belonging to the human social rights to life. And therefore, the public authorities should act coherently with this principle.
VOICE: Our appreciation Dr. Petrella and the Maplecroft organization for helping us to understand our growing vulnerability due to water scarcity. May people across the planet unite in sustainable lifestyles that conserve this precious resource for a safe and peaceful world. Ever concerned for humanity, Supreme Master Ching Hai has often suggested the actions needed to prevent water and related crises, as during a video message for a June 2009 climate change conference in Mexico.