Experts: Half World Faces Water Shortage by 2080

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Associated Press

Experts: Half World Faces Water Shortage by 2080

by
Eileen Ng

A little girl collects water from a leak in a pipe in a camp for displaced people, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008 in Kibati just north of Goma in eastern Congo. Half the world's population could face a shortage of clean water by 2080 because of climate change, experts warned Tuesday. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Half the world's population
could face a shortage of clean water by 2080 because of climate change,
experts warned Tuesday.

Wong
Poh Poh, a professor at the National University of Singapore, told a
regional conference that global warming was disrupting water flow
patterns and increasing the severity of floods, droughts and storms _
all of which reduce the availability of drinking water.

Wong said
the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that as many
as 2 billion people won't have sufficient access to clean water by
2050. That figure is expected to rise to 3.2 billion by 2080 _ nearly
tripling the number who now do without it.

Reduced access to
clean water _ which refers to water that can be used for drinking,
bathing or cooking _ forces many villagers in poor countries to walk
miles to reach supplies. Others, including those living in urban
shanties, suffer from diseases caused by drinking from unclean sources.

At
the beginning of the decade, the World Health Organization estimated
that 1.1 billion people did not have sufficient access to clean water.

Asia,
home to more than 4 billion people, is the most vulnerable region,
especially India and China, where booming populations have placed
tremendous stress on water sources, said Wong, a member of the U.N.
panel.

"In Asia, water distribution is uneven and large areas are
under water stress. Climate change is going to exacerbate this
scarcity," he told the two-day Asia Pacific Regional Water Conference
attended by policy makers, government officials, academics, businessmen
and consumer group representatives.

Scientists have said global
climate change takes many forms, causing droughts in some areas while
increasing flooding and the severity of cyclones in others. Droughts
reduce water supply, and floods destroy the quality of water. Rising
sea levels, for instance, increase the salt content at the mouths of
many rivers, from which many Asians draw their drinking water.

"As
human civilization develops, the environment is increasingly affected
in negative ways. Floods, drought, changing rainfall patterns and
rising temperatures are signs of our misdeeds to nature," said Rozali
Ismail, head of a state water association in Malaysia.

Wong and
others at the conference called on governments to embrace the Kyoto
Protocol climate treaty to fight global warming and protect water
resources, as a short-term solution.

But eventually governments
must build infrastructure to protect coastal areas, improve management
of water basins and adopt new technologies to enhance availability and
reliability of water resources, Wong said.

The United Nations is
currently campaigning to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol _ which
regulates the emissions of 37 industrial countries _ with another
accord at a meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The Kyoto
Protocol was signed by 183 nations in 1997. But the United States _
long the world's biggest emitter, though it is now rivaled by China _
rejected the plan over concerns it would harm the American economy.

Developing
countries such as China and India also refused to accept a binding
arrangement that they said would limit their development.

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