Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Our Rivers of Doom

The emergence of the earliest human civilizations dating back to 8,000 BC can be traced to banks of rivers. Unfortunately, some of these very rivers that have for centuries supported and sustained human settlements are now nothing more than geographic memories, to be found only in outdated maps.

While the human population is exploding, water supply around the world is shrinking. The Himalayan glaciers are receding, causing rivers to dry up thereby condemning hundreds of millions of people in the lower riparian states to hydrological poverty.

Need for increased food production to feed the exploding human population means that we need more water for drinking and irrigation. Unfortunately ground waters are drying up and the available river waters have become unusable for irrigation because of the level of pollution caused by dumping of industrial and other waste into them.

The Tibetan plateau is the world’s largest fresh water tank, out of which flow the 10 major river systems of Asia including the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, Irrawady, Salween and Mekong. On these rivers depend the livelihood of over 2 billion people including those in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. Construction of dams and major diversion projects on rivers of Tibet would severely impact the lower riparian countries, thereby causing situations of conflict and disharmony.

Even as I write this post (26th August, 2015: 9:24 AM), the world population has hit a staggering 7,362,537,781. Satiating the hunger and quenching the thirst of 8 billion people by 2024 is going to put tremendous stress on our water resources.

In times to come, water is going to be the scarcest resource over which wars are likely to be fought! Even scarier, WATER HAS NO SUBSTITUTE.

Nature has been bountiful with Bhutan. We have five river systems that collectively contribute to a total renewal water resources estimated at 1.15 million Cu. Mtrs. per year - among the highest in the world. Even more fortunate, our dependency on cross-border water flows is virtually zero since only two small rivers, Amochu in Haa and Kurichu in Mongaar, originate in Tibet China. Unlike most other countries in the neighborhood and else where such as in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, we need not fear upstream riparian states causing us desperation as a result of their damming the rivers or diverting water flow.

But alas, this is where the dream stops and reality strikes. This generation of Bhutanese has squandered away our nature’s gift through irresponsible and reckless mismanagement of our rivers and water resources. Caused by disastrous and unimaginative investment decisions and financing model in hydro-power projects, we now know that our river systems will be the cause of our bankruptcy and failed statehood. And yet, successive governments have been adamant that the hydro-power projects will help us pave our streets in gold, even while we are aware that we are trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and mismanagement. As of now, our unserviceable hydro-power debt is in excess of our total annual GDP!

Even as we grandiosely declare, time after time, our commitment to ensure the safety, prosperity and the future of our children, we unfailingly engage in an enterprise that we know will enslave, not one, but many of our future generations to a life beleaguered by debt and poverty.

Although it may be already too late, there is still an URGENT need to rethink our policy on water use.

Foot Note:
It would appear that our hydro-power projects are executed under great secrecy - here is an interesting read:

................... to be continued

1 comment:

  1. Thought provoking article...on urgent need to rethink on WATER preservation...