WorldChanging writes that according to a recent global survey of experts, the answer is: water.
Water is of course fundamental to life itself; our own bodies are about 70% water (as is the earth’s surface itself). Fresh water may appear to be abundant to the average resident of a developed nation, with water faucets throughout the house. But over a billion lack access to this basic need.
Certainly water problems are not acutely “felt” by everyone in the same way that a Pakistani villager or an Australian farmer might experience them daily. And as these two examples reflect, water issues are vastly different from region to region. But a general water crisis is growing globally, for two very simple reasons that exacerbate each other: (1) demand is increasing, (2) supply is decreasing.
As populations and their aspirations grow, and industry and agriculture grow with them, fresh water needs go up drastically. Meanwhile, a combination of accumulating persistent pollutants in fresh water sources, depletion of “fossil” water (very old underground aquifers that recharge very slowly), and precipitation changes brought on by climate change and forest clearing add up to sharply less fresh water available to meet ever-growing needs.
As last year’s UN World Water Assessment noted, “of all the social and natural resource crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet Earth.” As debates heat up over privatization (does it solve the problem, or cause it?), and cross-border water disputes turn more acute (even the Israeli/Palestinian conflicts are partly rooted in struggles over water), that crisis is increasingly becoming a battleground.
I don’t think we are paying enough attention in India to the water challenge.