Sun 5th Mar 2006

Water shortages - the biggest growing problem in the world

This is not the kind of headline Vincentians want to reading in the newspaper in 10 years time, but if the ULP go ahead with the cross-country road then this headline could be a reality. The cross-country road is a definite threat to the food security of Vincentians and, if constructed, would be an irreparable serious error.

SVG has no real underground stored water and relies exclusively on rain-fed surface streams. When trees are stripped from the land, temperatures rise and the amount of rainfall drops. Rivers dry and aquifers are drained, causing water shortages.

The results of deforestation include climatic changes, droughts and drinking water shortages, flooding, soil erosion, crop losses, malnutrition, the destruction of marine resources, and ultimately, increased poverty. Examples of the environmental effect can be seen in the Caribbean. Severe floods and landslides in both Honduras and Nicaragua occurred mainly in regions with steep slopes that had been denuded of their forest cover.

Not only will a shortage of water be bad for Vincentians health, it will impact on the already fragile economy. In China, 'Statistics show that industries in the country lose at least 230 billion Renminbi (27.8 billion US dollars) annually due to the shortage'.

In SVG there is already a national shortage of fish. Freshwater and coastal fisheries are devastated by the high sedimentation loads carried by the rivers after deforestation. Sedimentation from degraded watersheds is also one of the principal causes of the decline of coastal coral reefs. The economic and environmental costs are staggering.

If we lose the natural water supply from the secondary rainforests in SVG then water prices will rise and the poor will be the worst affected. 'In Bolivia, when water prices were raised the poor were worst hit. Tanya Paredes, a mother of five who supports her family as a clothes-knitter, says her increase, $15 per month, was equal to what it costs to feed her family for 1 1/2 weeks. "What we pay for water comes out of what we have to pay for food, clothes and the other things we need to buy for our children," she said.'

And if SVG does lose its own water supply it will have a hard time buying in water from abroad. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the world - more than 2 billion people - have no access to clean water or sanitation.

In the next 10 to 20 years water will be the new oil. Water will be the scarce resource that will be worth the most and the main one that everybody will need. If the SVG economy is as bad as it is today or worse, we will not be in a position to buy water from abroad even if a supplier was found. There is already a worldwide shortage of water. Tens of millions of people don't have access to safe water. It is indeed a crisis," says Halifa Drammeh, who coordinates UNEP's water policies.

Deforestation is a huge problem in other Caribbean countries and SVG should learn from others' mistakes. In El Salvador the loss of trees and water has caused a dramatic rise in pollution. "We have the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people who die every week because of health problems related to pollution," said Ricardo Navarro, a U.S.-educated environmentalist based in San Salvador. "El Salvador doesn't face an environmental crisis in the future. The crisis is right now."

Water Exports

Given the fact that China seems set to spend US$ 18bn on trying to solve its drought problem, water exports would be a forward move for SVG. Water exports could be a high-earning new sector for the SVG economy. In Beijing, 2 tons of water costs US$1. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the world - more than 2 billion people - have no access to clean water or sanitation.

Israel intends to import water in tankers carrying 50 million cubic metres. The cost to Israel of importing water from Turkey is US$1 a cubic metre. With a thriving hemp processing and water export industry the SVG economy could flourish. The lack of economic innovation shown by the present government does nothing to solve poverty issues faced by many Vincentians.

There is a market for a commodity and while we still have lush forests, we will have that commodity in abundance. Water - the way forward!,3604,1116865,00.html

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