Friday, September 08, 2006

World Water Congress In Beijing

World Water Congress
Take a look at the sponsors of this to know what this is really all about.
Hmm, this is just downright ironic that Beijing is hosting this Congress. And I wonder, would all these promises be made were China not hosting the 2008 Olympics? I find it hard to believe that they actually care for the people. If they did, they would have fixed their infrastructure long before this.
Fitting Venue for World Water Congress
Antoaneta Bezlova

BEIJING, Sep 8 (IPS) - When the World Water Congress convenes this weekend in Asia for the first time, the choice of the Chinese capital would be nothing but befitting. The 1.3 billion people of the world's most populous country have at their disposal only a quarter of the water per person that is available on average around the world.

But China's water woes go far beyond the scarcity of water resources. Pollution has left nearly half of the water in China's rivers suitable only for agricultural and industrial use, making fresh drinking water a luxury for many of China's 800 million peasants.

It would cost China about 136 billion US dollars, close to 7 percent of its GDP, to clean up all the pollution pumped into the country's environment just in 2004. Most of the money has to be put towards water pollution, announced the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), this week.

"These are figures that are extremely alarming, and show the environmental situation is very serious," Pan Yue, head of the national environmental protection watchdog, said in the SEPA report, released Sep. 7.

China will be looking to the 5th World Water Congress, held in Beijing Sep. 10-14, to tap the latest technology and attract more foreign participation in its water industry. Foreign investment in the water sector currently accounts for only 10 percent of the total, but Beijing hopes to raise this drastically.

More than 2,000 water experts and government officials from various countries and international organizations are expected to attend the congress.

The forum will provide a "valuable platform to bring in advanced ideas, technologies and experiences in the water sector," Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of construction, told a news briefing. "It will benefit both China and the world".

Qiu said China hoped to get expertise on how to deal with the acute shortage of water resources and its ever increasing water demand. "China is at the crossroads in dealing with water problems," he declared.

Nearly three decades of breakneck economic growth, with little attention paid to ecological degradation, has taken its toll on the country's meagre water resources --already strained by rapid urbanization and population growth.

Currently, 312 million Chinese villagers are facing water shortages and unsafe water supply, contaminated with fluorine, arsenic, high levels of salt or other industrial pollutants, minister of water resources Wang Shucheng told the state news agency Xinhua this week.

China's urban water environment is worsening too. About 400 of China's 600 odd cities are short of water, according to the water ministry. In Beijing and some 100 other cities, the shortages are deemed to be "extreme".

If left untackled, in 2008 -- the year Beijing plays host to the Olympic Games -- the water crisis would leave the Chinese capital short by up to 1.1 billion cu metres of water, the ministry predicts.

Water scarcity threatens China's food security as well. A persistent drought this summer has affected the lives of 17 million people in central and south-western China and has caused crops to dry up in the fields.

"Overall, some 10 percent of China's grain harvest is being produced by over pumping of water, which means it is not sustainable," says environmentalist Lester Brown, director of the U.S.-based Earth Policy Institute.

Despite the seriousness of the crisis, Chinese leaders have shied away from raising water prices to promote water conservation. Experts say current prices are not enough to make farmers conserve water.

"Raising water prices is not the right option for China because rural incomes are not high," Qiu asserted.

As rural areas have fallen behind the cities in their development, public resentment and social unrest have become some of the main worries for the government in the countryside.

Protests against polluting industries and lack of water have become a common sight across Chinese villages, as the environment has all too often been sacrificed in the pursuit of single-minded profit.

Rather than risk social unrest by raising water prices significantly, Beijing has announced it will spend about 1 trillion yuan (125 billion dollars) over the next five years to improve urban water security and build sewage treatment systems. Another 5 billion dollars are allocated to improve the water supply in rural areas..

Water minister Wang Shucheng vowed this week that by 2015 all the 300 million peasants who currently lack clean drinking water would be provided with safe, potable water.

Wang said China is likely to far exceed its United Nations Millennium Development Goal which was to reduce by half the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015.

But an editorial in the official ‘China Daily' warned that all the government investment will not be enough to solve China's water crisis, if promises to clean up the country's filthy rivers are not followed by concrete action.

"The wish list the ministry of water resources has delivered for rural residents without access to safe drinking water is a proper commitment," it said. "But it is one thing to put a target on a wish list. Achieving it is a challenge of a different order of magnitude." (END/2006)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Water Access Progress "Too Slow"

Ok, we are talking about GETTING POTABLE WATER TO PEOPLE whose lives depend on it. If we as a species cannot even accomplish that with all of the resources at our disposal then we truly do have a severe MORAL dilemma to deal with. How is it that governments can find BILLIONS of dollars to wage war, but can never seem to find what is necessary even for the most basic needs of people? And the one sentence in this article that outraged me the most was regarding young girls who cannot even get an education, because they need to spend the day fetching water for their families! We have got to as a species have that Renaissance that is so desperately needed in order for us to survive. But again, we come to the two words that seem to always put the brakes on it: human nature. Therefore, I am going to suggest something. I am going to suggest that you look up an organization of your choice that seeks to build the infrastructure necessary to provide water to those who need it and donate what you can, be it in money or word of mouth. Again, as with the climate crisis, if WE do not take the initiative to solve this problem we doom ourselves. We simply cannot look to politicians to do it for us.

Progress On Water Access Too Slow

Water access progress 'too slow'
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

Some 1.6m children die each year from a lack of safe water
Urbanisation and population growth are threatening one of the UN's most ambitious millennium development goals, two UN agencies warn in a report.

The UN had hoped to halve the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

But progress has slowed due to population increases and unexpectedly high migration to urban areas, say the World Health Organisation and Unicef.

They estimate some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack clean drinking water.

Water that is close by, clean and safe is basic to life.

Some 2.6 billion people have no sanitation and, every year, 1.6 million children under the age of five die because of such a lack of access.

And this lack is hampering the achievement of other millennium development goals.

In education, for example, young girls who have to walk miles to fetch the family's water do not have time to go to school.

Double effort required

The report by the WHO and Unicef, the UN children's fund, reveals that an additional 300,000 people would have to be provided with water supplies every day for the next 10 years to achieve the goal on clean water.

On sanitation, the goal will not be reached unless 450,000 people get services every day from now until 2015.

And, as with the other millennium development goals, sub-Saharan African is lagging behind.

A huge increase of 85% in the region's urban population has meant enormous strain on services.

The number of people without clean water in urban centres actually doubled between 1990 and 2004.

Meanwhile, many rural areas have not been reached at all.

But the UN says the report is no reason to admit defeat.

Work will continue to provide clean water, but the goals will not be reached unless the effort being made now is doubled at least.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Global Warming Is Causing Spreading Drought

And I would state based on all I have read in the last year on this topic that the percentage has increased since this report was written. We are doing this to ourselves. We are making our world a place where humans will not be able to sustain themselves if we do not look at what we are doing and seriously meet this challenge from within ourselves.

Drought is a silent killer. In the mid eighties a drought in the horn of Africa killed 750,000 people, and it still persists with millions at risk of starvation and water scarcity. Imagine what prolonged drought now in areas unaccustomed to it would suffer. Sixty percent of the U.S. is now experiencing some sort of drought condition, most prevalently in the Plains. And as this article from only a year ago points out it is in part due to human induced climate change causing a rise in temperature.

I am now researching different types of irrigation methods employed around the world and will be posting a report on that within the week here. If droughts are to be persitant and more prevalent, the strain that would exert upon our remaining freshwater supplies will be immense with other conditions such as poverty, waste, privatization, govt. corruption, and overpopulation in the mix. This is a global problem in great part of our making that we simply cannot ignore any longer.

Scientists: global warming is causing spreading drought

Posted Jan. 12, 2005

Courtesy the National Science Foundation and World Science staff

The percentage of Earth’s land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s, and global warming seems be a major reason, scientists announced this week. The researchers, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said widespread drying occurred over much of Europe and Asia, Canada, western and southern Africa.

Aiguo Dai, a scientist with the center, presented the findings on Jan. 12 the American Meteorological Society annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. The work also appeared in a paper published in the December issue of the Journal of Hydrometeorology.

“The results reconfirm the complexity of the climate system,” said Cliff Jacobs, program director in division of atmospheric sciences of the National Science Foundation, U.S.A. “We need to continue to develop a wide variety of research tools to understand these changes.”

Dai and his colleagues found that the fraction of global land experiencing very dry conditions rose from about 10-15 percent in the early 1970s to about 30 percent by 2002. Almost half of that change is due to rising temperatures rather than decreases in rainfall or snowfall, according to Dai. “These results point to increased risk of droughts as human activity contributes to global warming,” says Dai.

Even as drought has expanded across Earth’s land areas, the amount of water vapor in the air has increased over the past few decades, the researchers said. Average global precipitation has also risen slightly. However, as Dai noted, “surface air temperatures over global land areas have increased sharply since the 1970s.”

The large warming increases the tendency for moisture to evaporate from land areas. Together, the overall area experiencing either very dry or very wet conditions could occupy a greater fraction of Earth’s land areas in a warmer world, Dai says.

“Droughts and floods are extreme climate events that are likely to change more rapidly than the average climate,” says Dai. “Because they are among the world’s costliest natural disasters and affect a very large number of people each year, it is important to monitor them and perhaps predict their variability.”

Dai and colleagues used long-term records of temperature and precipitation from a variety of sources to estimate soil moisture for the period 1870–2002. The results were consistent with those from a historical computer simulation of global land surface conditions. By factoring out rainfall and snowfall, Dai and colleagues estimated how much of the changes moisture changes were due solely to rising temperatures.

“The warming-induced drying has occurred over most land areas since the 1970s,” says Dai, “with the largest effects in northern mid- and high latitudes.” In contrast, rainfall deficits alone were the main factor behind expansion of dry soils in Africa’s Sahel and East Asia. These are regions where El NiƱo, a more frequent visitor since the 1970s, tends to inhibit rainfall.

Though most of the Northern Hemisphere has shown a drying trend in recent decades, the United States has bucked that trend, becoming wetter overall during the past 50 years, says Dai. The trend is especially notable between the Rocky Mountains and Mississippi River. Other parts of the world showing a moistening trend include Argentina and parts of western Australia. These trends are related more to increased precipitation than to temperature, says Dai.

“Global climate models predict increased drying over most land areas during their warm season,” Dai said. This occurs because of a general increase in “greenhouse gases,” such as carbon dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere, he added. “Our analyses suggest that this drying may have already begun.”
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