A quarter of the world’s people are just a few dry spells away from facing dangerous water shortage, a U.S. think tank warned on Tuesday, with India home to the bulk at risk of running dry.
Seventeen countries face “extremely high water stress” because they consume 80 percent of their available water annually, a situation worsened by more frequent dry shocks tied to climate change, the World Resources Institute (WRI) said.
“We’re currently facing a global water crisis,” said Betsy Otto, director of WRI’s global water program. New data in WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas showed the lion’s share of the most thirsty countries are located in the largely arid Middle East and North Africa region. Qatar is the most water-stressed country, followed by Israel and Lebanon.
India ranked 13th among “extremely high” water-stressed nations. But with a population of more than 1.3 billion, it has over three times more people than the other 16 countries combined whose agriculture, industry and municipalities depend on avoiding water “bankruptcy.”
In recent weeks, India’s sixth-largest city, Chennai, was the latest metropolis worldwide to warn its taps could run dry, as reservoir levels plunged. That followed similar countdowns to water “Day Zero” in South Africa’s Cape Town last year and Brazil’s Sao Paulo in 2015, WRI said.
“We’re likely to see more of these kinds of ‘Day Zeros’ in the future,” said Otto. The world’s water supplies are threatened by many factors, from climate change to mismanagement in the form of water waste and pollution, Washington-based WRI said.
A high reliance on depleting groundwater supplies – difficult to measure and manage because they are buried deep – is an additional concern, Paul Reig, who leads work on the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, told journalists.
Nearly a third of the world’s fresh water is groundwater, according to the United States Geological Survey. “Because we don’t understand (groundwater), and don’t see it, we manage it very poorly,” Reig said.
WRI’s atlas ranked 189 countries on water stress, drought and river flood risk in collaboration with universities and research institutes in the Netherlands and Switzerland, using data from the 1960s to 2014. (VOA)
The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there.
“To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of ‘Border Haat’ has been identified in four places — Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram,” Mizoram Commerce and Industries Minister R. Lalthangliana told IANS.
The Minister said, “The success of the “Border Haats” running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar ‘haats’ with Mynmar in Mizoram.”
Mizoram Commerce and Industries Department Director J. Hmingthanmawia said that the state government has sent the detailed proposals in this regard to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for its approval.
“Once we get the green signal from the MEA, we would seek funds from the Union Industries and Commerce Ministry,” Hmingthanmawia told IANS. He said that officials of the Mizoram government and Myanmar have recently conducted a joint survey and identified the locations to set up the “Border Haats”.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga in his Independence Day speech had said that the proposed “Border Haats” would become important trade points between India and Myanmar.
“Land Custom Station (LCS) at Zokhawthar, the lone trade route for Mizoram with South East Asian countries, is being proposed for upgradation. Construction of Trade Facilitation Centre at Tlabung has already been completed.”
“The Indian government has also proposed construction of an Integrated Check Post (ICP) at four places at the border in Mizoram — Marpara, Tuipuibari, Silsuri and Nunsury. The construction of ICP at Kawrpuichhuah is also expected to commence shortly,” the Chief Minister added.
Mizoram has an unfenced international border of 404 km with Myanmar and 318 km with Bangladesh. The Border Security Force (BSF) has been guarding the Bangladesh border and Assam Rifles personnel are posted on the border with Myanmar.
Experts and various studies suggest that if the “Border Haats” are set up, smuggling of drugs and other commodities would be checked to a large extent. Security expert Manas Paul said that large-scale smuggling of drugs from Myanmar via Mizoram and other neighbouring states has increased in the last few years.
“What is really worrisome is the fact that these synthetic drugs have got a domestic market inside the state, especially among the younger generation. Cross border legal activities including setting up of “Border Haats” could curb the smuggling of drugs and other contraband,” Paul, who has authored books on security and terrorism in the northeast, told IANS.
The CUTS International, a Jaipur based international NGO, with support from the World Bank, had conducted a study in 2016 to understand and examine the effect of “Border Haats” on poverty alleviation and other multiplier effects such as informal trade.
CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee said that trade will increase income, curb smuggling, and cross-border crimes will also go down.
“‘Border Haats’ have contributed to the border area development, roads have improved, trafficking of women has stopped, unemployment issues have been addressed,” said Chatterjee.
Currently four “Border Haats” are operational in Meghalaya and Tripura. The first “Border Haat” was started on July 23, 2011 at Kalaichar (India)-Kurigram (Bangladesh) in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Three other “haats” followed in Meghalaya and Tripura.
The Union Industries and Commerce Ministry has been spending on an average Rs 3.5 crore to develop the infrastructure and necessary facilities for each “Border Haat” along the Bangladesh border. The Bangladesh government is not providing any funds for the purpose. (IANS)