Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
U.N. Chief: “Water is Running Out”

As reported by CBS News, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world to put the looming crisis over water shortages at the top of the global agenda this year and take action to prevent conflicts over scarce supplies.  Ban told business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum that the session should be named: “Water is running out”, and reminded them that the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan was touched off by drought – and he said shortages of water contribute to poverty and social hardship in Somalia, Chad, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Colombia and Kazakhstan.  As the article notes:

“..Too often, where we need water we find guns instead,” Ban said. “Population growth will make the problem worse. So will climate change. As the global economy grows, so will its thirst. Many more conflicts lie just over the horizon.”

He said a recent report identified 46 countries with 2.7 billion people where climate change and water-related crises create “a high risk of violent conflict” and a further 56 countries, with 1.2 billion people “are at high risk of violent conflict.” The report was by International Alert, an independent peace-building organization based in London.

Ban noted that it was a drought that precipitated the violence in Darfur, Sudan. “Fighting broke out between farmers and herders after the rains failed and water became scarce,” he said of the conflict, which has so far claimed about 200,000 lives and displaced several million people. “But almost forgotten is the event that touched it off – drought, a shortage of life’s vital resource…”

…Ban’s call for global action on water got strong support from several top business executives.

“Water is today’s issue,” said Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Co., the world’s second largest chemical company. “It is the oil of this century, not a question…”

…[E. Neville Isdell, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co.] also issued “a clarion cry for engagement,” especially with the agricultural sector which uses 70 percent of water resources, compared with 23 percent by industry and 7 percent by “humanity in general.”

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman and CEO of Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food and drink company, said “time is still on our side but time is running out, just like water is running out.”

He said the demand for biofuels is misguided because 9,000 liters of water are needed to produce one liter of biodiesel.

“This can only work because water has no price,” Brabeck said. “If we are going to use 1,950 cubic kilometers of water for biofuels when at the same time our … water reservoirs are already depleted now, you can see that this strategy that we have today – and which is backed by all major governments – is not the right strategy….”

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