23 January 2007

China and India - drying up?

According to Jeffrey Sachs, the renowned American economist who heads the UN's Millennium Project, two of the world's great rivers, the Ganges and the Yellow, no longer flow. According to Sachs, due to silting up and water extraction upstream they are essentially stagnant.

This does not bode well for the world's two most populous nations. The agricultural revolution that allowed Asia to feed its expanding populations has relied heavily on greater use of water. The amount of land under irrigation has tripled. And the demand for water only grows as India and China increasingly become industrial powerhouses.

The two Asian giants are not alone in facing serious water shortages. Countries around the world are experiencing shrinking water resources. Here in North America, the great Ogallala aquifer, which underlies parts of eight states and was once thought inexhaustible, is being drained at up to 100 times the replacement rate.

The long-term forecast, it would appear, is warm and dry.

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