Fernando Alcoforado *
Today, March 22, is considered the World Water Day. Globally, there is a widespread view that water is an inexhaustible resource. This is, however, a huge mistake because water resources, although renewable, are limited. It is important to note that of the 70% of the water that makes up the planet Earth, only 2.5% is fresh water. Of these 2.5%, about 24 million km3 (or 70%) are in the form of ice (mountainous areas, Antarctica and Arctic), 30% are stored in the ground (groundwater, frigid soils and others) representing 97% of all fresh water available for human use. Of all available fresh water, only 0.4% are in lakes, rivers, that is, available for people to use. 70% of fresh water is used in irrigation, 22% in industry and only 8% in domestic use [VOCÊSABIA?. Escassez de água na Terra vai gerar conflito (Water scarcity on the Earth will generate conflicts). Available on the website <http://www.vocesabia.net/saude/escassez-de-agua-na-terra-vai-gerar-conflitos/>, 2012].
Around 800 million people do not have access to drinking water worldwide, 2.5 billion do not have basic sanitation, between 3 billion and 4 billion people, which accounts for half the world’s population, do not have access to water permanent use of dubious quality water every day, 11% of the world’s population still share water with animals in riverbeds and, according to WHO (World Health Organization), seven people per minute die in the world per drink rotten water and more than 1 billion people still defecate in the open air. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that global water demand will rise 55% by 2050. 2.3 billion additional people – more than 40% of the world’s population – will not have access if adequate measures are not taken.
The world population currently uses 50% of the planet’s fresh water. In 40 years it will use 80%. The geographical distribution of fresh water is uneven. Currently 1/3 of the world’s population lives in regions where it is scarce. The use of water improper for consumption is responsible for 60% of the planet’s patients. Half of the world’s rivers are contaminated by sewage, agrochemicals and industrial waste. UN report on water use confirms that, without measures against waste and in favor of sustainable consumption, access to safe drinking water and sanitation will be further reduced [SOS RIOS DO BRASIL. Bilhões sofrerão com falta de água e saneamento, diz relatório da ONU (Billions will suffer from lack of water and sanitation, says UN report). Available on the website <http://sosriosdobrasil.blogspot.com.br/2009/03/bilhoes-sofrerao-com-falta-de-aguae.html>, 2009). This UN Report estimates that 5 billion people will suffer from lack of basic sanitation by 2030].
UNICEF reports that every 15 seconds a child dies of diseases related to the lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene in the world. Every year, 3.5 million people die worldwide due to problems related to inadequate water supply, lack of sanitation and lack of hygiene policies, according to representatives of 28 UN agencies that integrate UN Water. In the Water Resources Development Report, a document released by UN Water every three years, the researchers point out that almost 10% of diseases recorded around the world could be prevented if governments invested more in access to water, hygiene and basic sanitation. Diarrheal diseases could be practically eliminated if there were such efforts, especially in developing countries. This type of disease, usually related to the ingestion of contaminated water, kills 1.5 million people annually. Several factors influence the occurrence of diarrhea, such as the availability of drinking water, food poisoning, inadequate hygiene and cleaning of water tanks (GONÇALVES, CAROLINA. Falta de água de qualidade mata uma criança a cada 15 segundos no mundo, revela Unicef. (Lack of quality water kills one child every 15 seconds in the world, Unicef says). Available on the website <http://www.ebc.com.br/noticias/brasil/2013/03/falta-de-qualidade-mata-uma-crianca-a-cada-15-segundos-no- World>, 2013].
Over the past 45 years, demand for the planet’s natural resources has doubled, due to rising living standards in rich and emerging countries and rising world population. Today the world population uses 50% of the planet’s fresh water. In 40 years it will use 80%. The geographical distribution of fresh water is uneven. Currently 1/3 of the world’s population lives in regions where it is scarce. The use of water improper for consumption is responsible for 60% of the planet’s patients.
Although the amount of water available in the world is constant, demand is growing, however, due to the increase in population and agricultural production, generating a climate of uncertainty and the possibility of internal conflicts occurring in several countries and internationally. The OECD argues that conflicts usually occur within the same country, since the population has different needs in relation to the use of water (for agriculture or consumption, for example) and this creates disputes (VOCÊSABIA? Escassez de água na Terra vai gerar conflitos (Shortage of water on Earth will generate conflicts). Available on the website <http://www.vocesabia.net/saude/escassez-de-agua-na-terra-vai-gerar-conflitos/>, 2012].
Water is becoming a source of war because of the international competition for water resources. Many countries build large dams diverting water from natural river drainage systems to the detriment of others. The main water conflicts in the world today involve Israel, Jordan and Palestine by the Jordan River, Turkey and Syria by the Euphrates River, China and India by the River Brahmaputra, Botswana, Angola and Namibia by the Okavango River, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Egypt by Rio Nile and Bangladesh and India by the Ganges River. In the American continent, the conflict between the United States and Mexico over the Colorado River water has intensified in recent years (TAGUCHI, Clarissa. Ver para crer: uma guerra pela água pode estar prestes a ser travada (To see for believe: a war for water may be about to be fought). Available on the website <http://panoramaecologia.blogspot.com.br/2006/03/ver-para-crer-uma-guerra-pela-gua-pode.html>, 2006].
New report released by the United Nations on 03/20/2015 informs that if nothing is done, the world’s water reserves can reduce 40% by 2030, pointing out that 748 million people on the planet do not have access to drinking water sources. Another conclusion is that Brazil is among the countries that registered the highest environmental stress after altering the natural course of rivers. According to the document, 20% of the world’s aquifers are already over-exploited, which can have serious consequences, such as soil erosion and saltwater invasion in these reservoirs. Scientists also predict that by 2050, agriculture and the food industry will need to increase their demand for water by 400% to increase production.
The situation described tends to worsen in the face of deficiency and irrationality in policies relating to the protection of the natural environment, including water sources and water courses and the management of basic sanitation in many countries of the world. In addition, international conflicts over water use will not be adequately addressed by the absence of an international body with sufficient authority to enable it to be resolved. Conflicts over water tend to be further aggravated by intensified desertification by climate change as a result of global warming. In addition, rivers, streams, groundwater and aquifers are contaminated daily by poorly treated sewage systems, the use of agricultural pesticides and the disposal of toxic wastes from industries. From the above, there is not much reason for humanity to celebrate World Water Day.
* Fernando Alcoforado, 78, member of the Bahia Academy of Education, engineer and doctor in Territorial Planning and Regional Development by the University of Barcelona, university professor and consultant in the areas of strategic planning, business planning, regional planning and planning of energy systems, is the author of the books Globalização (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 1997), De Collor a FHC (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 1998), Um Projeto para o Brasil (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 2000), Os Condicionantes de Desenvolvimento do Estado da Bahia (PhD Thesis, University of Barcelona, http: //www.tesisenred.net/handle/10803/1944, 2003), Globalização e Desenvolvimento (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 2006), Bahia- Desenvolvimento da Bahia do Século XVI ao Século XX e Objetivos Estratégicos na Era Contemporânea (EGBA, Salvador, 2008), The Necessary Conditions of the Economic and Social Development- The Case of the State of Bahia (VDM Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. KG, Saarbrücken, Germany, 2010), Aquecimento Global e Catástrofe Planetária (Viena- Editora e Gráfica, Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, São Paulo, 2010), Amazônia Sustentável- Para o progresso do Brasil e combate ao aquecimento global (Viena- Editora e Gráfica, Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, São Paulo, 2011), Os Fatores Condicionantes do Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2012), Energia no Mundo e no Brasil- Energia e Mudança Climática Catastrófica no Século XXI (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2015), As Grandes Revoluções Científicas, Econômicas e Sociais que Mudaram o Mundo (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2016) e A Invenção de um novo Brasil (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2017).