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‘And not a drop to drink’

With the heavy rains there’s water everywhere, and yet we’re running out of potable water!

Flooding is a perennial problem in Metro Manila and many other parts of the country. It poses a challenge to our government, which reportedly needs two decades or more to complete a flood-control master plan.

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If one travels to Baguio City, as we recently did, one will see many landslide areas and mountains gone bald because of deforestation—clear signs of more flash floods in the years to come.

Now they want to cement the riverbanks, as if that will solve the flooding problem.  What we need to do is to dredge our silted waterways, protect what’s left of our forests, and then go on a massive reforestation program.

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Europe was recently underwater, caused by heavy downpours that led to the swelling of the Elba and Danube rivers and the breaching of their levees. The floods in India, Canada and elsewhere are likewise appalling.

So much water wasted and many are still desperate for water to drink. Already, more than 2 billion people in the world—both in the rural and urban areas—struggle to find access to water for their very survival.

“Each and every day some 3,900 children die due to dirty water or poor hygiene,” says the World Health Organization. “Water scarcity, poor water quality, and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices, and educational opportunities for poor families across the world.”

Over 70 percent of our planet is made up of water but only 2.5 percent of that is fresh water, most of which comes from the polar ice caps. But the ice caps are melting so fast and the waters flowing into the ocean due to global warming. The rest of the water is used for agricultural, residential and industrial purposes.

The rains are supposed to replenish the watersheds. But not enough rainwater is stored because there are hardly any forests left to contain it.

The imbalance in our ecosystem is showing but it is being ignored. The culprits continue damming our rivers and decimating our forests. They are defying Nature’s warnings. And worse, world leaders have done nothing concrete to mitigate climate change, which continues to wreak havoc on the planet and melt the remaining ice caps.

Water, the source of all life, is running out. Our rivers and lakes are running dry.

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Says author and environmental analyst Lester Brown: “The world is seeing the collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline.

Because of the failure of governments in the region to mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people to feed and less irrigation water with which to feed them.

“In India, 175 million people are being fed with grain produced by over pumping, in China 130 million. In the United States, the irrigated area is shrinking in leading farm states with rapid population growth, such as California and Texas, as aquifers are depleted and irrigation water is diverted to cities.”

Brown adds: “Eighteen countries are showing signs of severe water shortages, and China, India and the United States are included.”

And yet, here in our country, some even want to dam the Laiban River?

I remember the days when we drank clean water from the well and the household water from our faucets was taken from a nearby unpolluted river. We enjoyed water in its pristine form.

These days, bottled water is a profitable business despite water being a God-given resource.

We have reached the age of peak oil, peak food, and peak water. There will be more Arab Springs and a war for resources, primarily for water, because it is essential to survival.

The deserts continue to expand. Look how the Sahara, Gobi and Kalahari deserts continue to gain ground. We are losing the battle against the phenomenon called desertification.

At the rate water is being wasted everywhere and becoming more polluted, the war for water may begin sooner than we expect. We must take action against all threats to our water resources.

It’s not a matter of choice. It’s our responsibility.

Antonio M. Claparols ([email protected]) is president of the Ecological Society of the Philippines.

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TAGS: Antonio M. Claparols, Commentary, environment, Floods, opinion, water, weather
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