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Radical changes needed to quench world’s thirst – UN

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The 2012 United Nation’s flagship report on freshwater resources, the ‘World Water Development Report’, clearly states that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option.

Three to four billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and reliable tap water in their homes, says the report made available to the GNA.

The global population is likely to reach 9.1 billion in 2050, if not sooner, and 68 per cent of these nine billion people will live in cities.

According to the report, in many countries water availability for agriculture is already limited and uncertain and is set to worsen—at the same time agriculture production has to be increased to cater for nine billion people.

These issues are connected—increasing agricultural output will substantially increase water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water.

As well, economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water to produce.

Producing one kilogramme of rice, for example, requires approximately 3,500 litres of water; one kilogramme of beef approximately 15,000 litres; and a cup of coffee approximately 140 litres.

The Asia-Pacific is home to 60 percent of the world’s population but it has only 36 percent of its water resources.

European and North American populations consume a considerable amount of virtual water embedded in imported food and products. Each person in North America and Europe (excluding the former Soviet Union countries) consumes at least 3000 litres per day of virtual water in imported food, compared to 1400 litres per day in Asia and 1100 litres per day in Africa.

Various estimates indicate that, based on business as usual, approximately 3.5 planet earths would be needed to sustain a global population achieving the current lifestyle of the average European or North American.

Nearly all Arab countries suffer from water scarcity, with water consumption significantly exceeding total renewable water supplies.

India is growing maize, sugar cane, lentils and rice in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique to feed its domestic market, while European firms are seeking 3.9 million hectares of African land to meet their 10 per cent biofuel target by 2015.
The amount of water required for biofuel plantations could be particularly devastating to regions such as West Africa, where water is already scarce, given that one litre of ethanol from sugarcane requires 18.4 litres of water and 1.52 square metres of land.

Source: GNA

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