Sustainable Developments: The Challenge of Sustainable Water; December 2006; Scientific American Magazine; by Jeffrey D. Sachs; 1 Page(s)
While oil shortages grab the headlines, water scarcity is creating at least as many headaches around the world. The most dramatic conditions are in Asia, where the world's two megacountries, China and India, are grappling with deepening and unsolved water challenges. China's great northern plain, home to more than 200 million people, is generally subhumid or arid and depends on unsustainable pumping of underground aquifers for irrigation. The Yellow River has been diverted to the point that it no longer flows to the sea. Meanwhile the water tables of Beijing and other large northern cities are falling dramatically as a result of the pumping of groundwater.
Similarly, southern India is drought-prone, and southern states scramble after river flows that cross state boundaries. When the rains are poor, upstream states such as Karnataka turn off the water flow to downstream states such as Tamil Nadu, with brutal consequences for farmers and communities. In northern India, tens of millions of bore wells are depleting groundwater much faster than it can replenish, just as in China.