Experts warn of global 'water bankruptcy'
Bangkok: Experts have sounded warning bells on 'water bankruptcy' for many regions, after conducting a 20-year review of 200 major global projects.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the largest public fund provider of projects to improve the global environment, in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), has come up with a report on water projects involving investments of more than $7 billion.
Zafar Adeel, director of the UN University International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), and the report's co-author, said: "This study underscores how often early 'alarm bells' with respect to emerging issues can be heard and must be heeded. The report offers helpful recommendations to the GEF to foster this process."
The report: 'Science-Policy Bridges over Troubled Waters," synthesises findings of over 90 scientists worldwide assigned to five GEF International Water Science working groups focusing on groundwater, lakes, rivers, land-based pollution sources, large marine ecosystems and the open ocean, according to a GEF statement.
"The consequences of poor decision-making are dire: we face a 'water bankruptcy' in many regions of the world with implications for food and energy security, adaptation to climate variability and change, economic growth and human security challenges," the report said.
Insufficient and disjointed management of human demands on water and aquatic systems has led to situations where both social and ecological systems are in jeopardy and have even collapsed, says the report.
Links between science and policymaking also need to be strengthened. Several success stories of research investments that paid rich dividends are also highlighted in the report.
These include efforts to rid Lake Victoria of alien water hyacinths, where an unsuccessful project using harvesting and chopping machines was replaced with biological control of the hyacinths using a weevil.
The GEF-backed approach yielded immediate positive results for biodiversity and local communities.
Other key findings include: Levels of dissolved oxygen levels in marine areas (a critical ecological indicator) have dropped significantly over a relatively short time.
In 2008, over 400 marine dead zones were known to span a total area of more than 245,000 square km.
The report was presented at GEF International Waters Science Conference in Bangkok, Thailand.