India expected to be water stressed by 2020: Blake
"Experts predict that by 2025 nearly two-thirds of the world`s countries will be water-stressed – which is defined as demand for water exceeding availability, or when poor quality water restricts its use. This problem is even more pressing in Asia," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Robert Blake said.
"India, for example, is expected to be water stressed by 2020, just nine years from now, which could limit the growth of India`s economy and global standing," he said in his remarks at the first annual Tibet Environmental Forum meeting here.
Blake said the Himalayan glaciers in the Tibetan plateau provide fresh water for over 1.5 billion people across Asia.
The glaciers feed nine river basins, including the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra, which support thousands of communities, villages and cities across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
"But climate change and pollutants like black carbon, have put many Himalayan glaciers in retreat, and some will certainly be lost by the end of this century. Glacial retreat impacts water supplies to millions of people, increases the likelihood of outburst floods that destroy life and property, and contributes to rising sea levels, which threaten coastal communities," Blake said.
As glaciers become smaller, water runoff decreases, which is especially important during the dry season when other water sources are limited.
Climate change also brings warmer temperatures and earlier water runoff from glaciers.
This combined with spring and summer rains can increase the chance of flooding, he noted.
Across South Asia, Blake noted, water is critical to health and development. But the growing scarcity of water can also exacerbate existing border disputes, making proper management of this scarce resource even more critical.
The South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department, he said, is working together with other agencies and in developing programs and partnerships with governments in the region to promote the deployment of clean, low-carbon energy technology – which often reduces the consumption of water by the power sector – and to reduce emissions of black carbon from cement plants.
"We are also working to foster trans boundary cooperation and improve water management systems. Through our efforts we aim to conserve this important resource and improve the lives of millions of South Asians," Blake said.