Natural resourc-es have been the backbone of human life sustenace from time immemorial. For a long time man has thoughtlessly engaged in the act of borrowing without much consideration to the aspect of protection and replenishment. Today, he finally has awakened to his folly and has started taking concrete towards managing the natural capital.
Almost every discipline of science, and in some cases, arts have chipped in to contribute its tools for natural resources management. More pertinently, the spatial sciences – GIS, RS, GPS, aerial photography – have now their roles cut out in this sphere.
Water – an irreplaceable treasure!
Water is one of the most precious gifts from nature, whose presence is absolutely vital for the sustenance of life! Man has been drawing on this unique natural resource from times immemorial. Over the years growing demand for water by the varied needs of human society have actually threatened its existence. On a global scale it has been estimated that about 3.4 trillion cubic metres of fresh water are drawn every year, with agriculture as the biggest user of fresh water, especially in Asia.
The UN has predicted that up to 7 billion people in 60 countries may possibly face water scarcity by the year 2050. As Thomas Fuller had said ‘We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.’ As threats to water resources become more defined, today, water resources management has become a crucial global concern. Half of the large rivers and lakes suffer from pollution, half of the humid zones have disappeared, biodiversity has dramatically decreased in surface waters and groundwater is more and more overexploited.
In 2005, Asia was home to 71% of the total number of people in the world without access to improved sanitation with 58% of those without access to safe water. Marking World Water Day on 22 March, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Kim Hak-Su, noted that this region has lowest per-capita fresh water availability in the world.
Water resources in South Asia
South Asia is watered by some of the largest river systems in the world. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of this region for which abundance of water resource is necessary. However this region faces several problems today, which have given rise to the need for good management strategies to protect the same. Some of the threats to the water resources of South Asia are water scarcity in some regions, urban water shortage, depleting ground water reserves, contamination of water bodies and the growing shortage of drinking water. The role of water in this region’s economy is enormous, hence any threat to it is a major cause of concern.
Water resources in South East Asia
South East Asia is one of the ost water rich regions in this world with an average annual water resource of about 6,476 km3, representing 15% of the world’s total. More than 90% of total freshwater withdrawals go to agriculture, the remaining 10% go to household and industrial uses. Once again agriculture being an important facet of this region, water resources are of prime importance in the region. It is important to address water management issues at various levels like escalating demands on water resources brought about by rapid urbanization and industrialization and the resulting water stress.
Water resources in Pacific islands
The small islands of the Pacific are facing unique water challenges. These include increasing demands from expanding populations and tourism; continued over-exploitation and pollution of limited ground-water resources; environmental degradation of coral reefs and vulnerability of the Islands to natural disasters and climate change. All these trends are having a direct impact on the health, livelihood and well being of the 7.6 million people who share the 10,000 islands of the Pacific.
On Kiribati’s capital, South Tarawa, the authorities are fighting to meet the water demands of a population increasing at 5 percent per annum. Its fragile groundwater lens, under the constant threat of pollution from sewage systems, the variable rainfall and the aging water supply system are simply not enough to provide more than one hour of questionable-quality drinking water a day. The Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa is suffering from an encroachment of poor sanitation on drinking-water sources. Septic tanks dischrges leaching through the porous soil has affected the fragile water lens below the town, which has become saline and polluted. Despite the enormity of these challenges, people across the Pacific Islands are meeting them head-on.