Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Asia's Destabilizing Water Woes

The Asia Pacific region faces enormous freshwater challenges triggered by overpopulation, industrialization, and climate change.

What's coming is bad enough if only Asia wasn't starting so far in the hole.   A report from the Asia Development Bank finds that two-thirds of the region's huge population already has no clean, piped water at home.

Studies for the Asian Water Development Outlook report, prepared by the ADB and other research institutes, found that 37 out of 49 countries in the region had low levels of water security.

The percentage of Asia's population with access to proper toilets had risen from 36 percent in 1990 to 58 percent in 2010, according to the report.

But that left 1.74 billion people without regular access to proper toilets, with nearly half of those still suffering "the indignity of practicing open defecation".

It said most of those people were in South Asia.

In contrast, Southeast Asia and East Asia were described as "bright spots", where access to proper toilets had expanded to at least 64 percent of their populations, the report said.

"While the Asia-Pacific region has become an economic powerhouse, it is alarming that no developing country in the region can be considered water secure," ADB vice president for sustainable development Bindu Lohani said. 

A significant part of the population in many of these countries lives in coastal areas.   These are already dealing with the impact of sea level rise and the salination of essential groundwater reserves.   That, too, is a steadily worsening threat.

In Shanghai, government crews have now plucked over 6,000 dead pigs out of the Huang Pu river.   Still no word on what has triggered the pig die-off or whether the safety of the river water that supports the population of Shanghai will be impacted.

How serious a threat is climate change to the Asia Pacific area?  The top U.S. military commander there says it is the biggest long term security threat facing the region.

In an interview with the Boston Globe Admiral Samuel J Locklear III, commander, US Pacific Command said significant upheaval related to the warming planet “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.”
“Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”

Locklear said his headquarters in Hawaii was working with Asian nations to stockpile supplies in strategic locations and planning a major exercise for May with nearly two dozen countries to practice the "what-ifs."

He said he was increasingly focussed on sea level rise.

“The ice is melting and sea is getting higher,” Locklear said.

“I'm into the consequence management side of it. I'm not a scientist, but the island of Tarawa in Kiribati, they're contemplating moving their entire population to another country because it is not going to exist anymore."

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