Raising the water alarm
It is said that future wars would be fought for access to water -- in some cases, this is already a reality.
"Water is going to be the most hotly contested urban issue facing the
world community in the 21st century," says Dr. N'Dow, who is also
Assistant Secretary General and head of the United Nations Centre for
Human Settlements (Habitat), based in Nairobi, Kenya. "The water crisis
is coming about not only because of a lack of water in some regions,
but also from the inability of governments to make the necessary
investments in a timely manner to ensure that water is available to all
The Philippines, an archipelago of 7,107 islands, relies on the annual rainfall to fill the dams and supply the country's 85 million denizens with potable water, not to mention, irrigate thousands of hectares of farmland.
But recent events call for serious action to conserve what would become a precious resource.
Only a little over a decade ago, it was quite an obscure -- almost preposterous -- idea to this writer that citizens would have to pay to avail of drinking water; that bottled H2O would soon be bought at your favorite supermarkets and grocery stores.
Today, distilled water filling stations can be found in every corner of every neighborhood in many areas in the country. On the opposite end, millions, especially in rural areas, remain without access to clean drinking water.
It has been reported that long stretches of the capital region's water pipeline date back to the Spanish era -- a century ago. Old and decrepit, these pipelines lay to waste thousands of gallons of water every day. Replacing this infrastructure would amount to billions of pesos in materials, equipment and labor.
According to a United Nations Centre for Human Settlements report, 58 percent of water flowing in Metro Manila pipelines end up unaccounter for, the second highest amongst Asian cities. Dhaka in Bangladesh has 62 percent "unaccounted for water".
By Ernesto Ordonez
According to a United Nations study, “By 2025, if current trends persist, as much as two-thirds of the world’s population will be living with a serious scarcity of water.”
Below is a table that shows the decreasing availability of water derived from Wilfredo P. David’s book, “Water Resources and Irrigation Policy Issues in Asia.”
1950 World 17,000
1970 World 12,900
1997 World 7,000
2025 World 4,700
Today Malaysia 21,000
Today Indonesia 12,000
Today Philippines 3,000
The Philippines is already in a precarious situation. Its water per capita is 1/7th of Malaysia’s, and below the forecasted dangerous world per capita level for 2025.
When lights went out in the early 1990s, our daily routine was severely disrupted. We face today an impending water crisis that will be far more severe than that energy crisis, unless we have a clear comprehensive water policy. Today, this is sorely lacking. But if newly appointed Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza fulfills the commitment his predecessor, Angelo Reyes, made to the Alyansa Agrikultura [Agricultural Alliance] on March 20, during World Water Week, we will hold a National Water Summit before the year ends, where this policy will be finalized and announced.