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TURNING POINT: Dangerously Disappearing

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 27 March) – Global warming and climate change that resulted from insatiable material consumption is pushing the world into a water crisis that puts into test the survival of mankind.

With the rapid disappearance of the earth forest cover, heavy precipitation can turn into monstrous floods as no more trees can hold and store them. What could have been waters for agriculture, home care and sanitation are simply wasted by the insane rampage of the vital resource to nowhere.

Global warming has accelerated the melting of the polar ice as well as those in the mountain ranges in Europe and the Himalayas and, over time, has reduced the flow of the major rivers in Europe, Central Asia, the Indian Continent, and in the water channels down to the Middle East and South Asia.

The advent of global warming and climate change either turns a place scorching dry or overly water-clogged, the outcome of which does not differ: the massive destruction of plants and animal crops, the sum of which is famine, plague and death.

More developed countries closer to the headwaters build several dams along rivers that cross their territories to generate energy and to corner and store waters for their sole use to the detriment of several states downstream.

Consider, for instance, the Mekong River. Mekong is one of the longest rivers in the world with an estimated length of 4,909 km and drains an area of 795,000 km2. It used to discharge 475 km3 of water annually. From the Tibetan Plateau the river runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Nowadays, it flows lesser and lesser waters as it passes through these countries and empties into the South China Sea.

To secure food production and meet the water needs of its burgeoning population, China has built several dams in the upper reaches of the river  within its territory. The dams have severely reduced the flow of water down south, altering the traditional lives of some people, and damaging aquatic lives, agriculture, transport and many other river-based economic activities in South Asia. This unfortunate development has naturally spawned protests, but nothing has changed so far to alleviate the sad plight of the impacted countries.

What happens to the Mekong River is also happening to the biblically famous Euphrates River. Originating from north of Turkey, the river is getting drier and drier as it meanders into Syria and reaches Iraq. It is likely that the river may no longer be able to water the Garden of Eden.

The flow of rivers in Europe has also been reduced to unprecedented levels threatening navigation and industrial production. In Africa, rivers are drying up faster than elsewhere, causing starvation across large swatch of land.

Water is life. It is said that the next world war would not be triggered by competing demands for fossil fuel but by the basic need to quench the thirst for water.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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