Skip to comments.Asian farmers are sucking the continent dry, says report
Posted on 08/30/2004 7:04:51 AM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
LONDON Asian farmers drilling millions of pump-operated wells in an ever-deeper search for water are threatening to suck the continent's underground reserves dry, a science magazine warned Wednesday.
"This little-heralded crisis is repeating itself across Asia and could cause widespread famine in the decades to come," London-based New Scientist said in a report on scientists' findings at a recent water conference in Sweden.
The worst affected country is India. There, small farmers have abandoned traditional shallow wells where bullocks draw water in leather buckets to drill 21 million tube wells hundreds of yards below the surface using technology adapted from the oil industry, the magazine said.
Another million wells a year are coming into operation in India to irrigate rice, sugar cane, and alfalfa round-the-clock.
While the $600 pumps have brought short-term prosperity to many and helped make India a major rice exporter in less than a generation, future implications are dire, New Scientist said.
"So much water is being drawn from underground reserves that they, and the pumps they feed, are running dry, turning fields that have been fecund for generations into desert," it said.
Tushaar Shah, head of the International Water Management Institute's groundwater station in Gujarat, said there was no control over the expansion of pumps and wells.
"When the balloon bursts, untold anarchy will be the lot of rural India," he said at the annual Stockholm Water Symposium. Shah said Indian farmers were taking 200 cubic kilometres of water out of the earth per year, with only a fraction of that replaced by the monsoon rains.
Suicides and Power-Cuts
"The same revolution is being replicated across Asia, with millions of tube wells pumping up precious underground water reserves in water-stressed countries like Pakistan, Vietnam, and in northern China," the New Scientist report said.
In China's breadbasket, the northern plain, 30 cubic kilometres more water is pumped to the surface each year than is replaced by rain, it said. Officials have said water shortages will soon make China dependent on grain imports.
Vietnam has quadrupled its number of tube wells in the past decade to 1 million, while water tables are plunging in the Pakistani state of Punjab, which produces 90 percent of the country's food, New Scientist added.
In India, "farmers have invested some $12 billion in the new pumps, but they constantly have to drill deeper to keep pace with falling water tables," it said.
Meanwhile, half of India's traditional hand-dug wells and millions of shallower tube wells have already dried up, "bringing a spate of suicides among those who rely on them."
Another consequence is electricity blackouts, reaching "epidemic proportions" in some Indian states, where half of the power is used to pump water from up to a kilometer down.
To counter the water crisis, some states are placing small dams across river beds in a bid to replenish groundwater by infiltration, and Hindu priests are organizing farmers to capture monsoon rains in ponds, the report said.
But the Indian government has gone cool on a proposed $200 billion River Interlinking Project to redistribute water round the country.
"In any case, the water supplied would probably come too late," New Scientist said.
It is a good thing the planet is warming because then we will have longer growing seasons and more arable land so that food in Canada, Russia and the United States can supply the rest of the world.
Access to oil and other energy reserves is going to seem like a tremendous luxury in comparison to water and food.
I believe there is even worse... In Bangladesh there is widespread arsenic poisoning, from natural arsenic which leached in these wells...
A lesson for those in the U.S. who think there's no crisis over depleting the Ogalla aquifer and others.
The sky is falling. A piece of it hit me on the head this morning on my way to work. I'm sure it's GWB's fault. He should do more to stop it.
The world of junk science just keeps getting funnier.
Where's the "Blame Bush," tag to this Reuters story.
Buy the top desalinization company now.....ION.
IT'S BUSH'S FAULT!!!
Good. Our crops will be expensive. We will trade them for plastic things made in China at a favorable trade balance.
Not so sure what you mean by this. Are you saying that calculating that more water is being taken out of the ground than returned is junk science?
If so, I don't quite comprehend how it fulfills the criteria. Obviously if you take more out than is being put back eventually there will be none left. If people rely on the water to grow food and there is suddenly no water left, they wont be able to grow enough food. The exact amounts and timing may be open to debate but the logic is flawless. Or, do you actually believe that Rambo can keep shooting without reloading?
The Chinese gov. will administer lead doses to control any Earth First type eco-terrorism that crops up.
What? As true as it might be what does that have to do with the story?
I wanted to ask what it had to do with the price of tea in China, but in fact, it has a lot to do with the price of tea in China. However I still can't figure out what it has to do with the story.
Too late, we are already here.
Water Crisis = Cause for evironmental activists of unsavory means.
I may be a bit dense here, but you are going to have to ellaborate a bit more on your thinking.
A real water crisis means that there is not enough water to go around. As opposed to a potential or fabricated water crisis.
If people aren't getting enough to eat or drink, then eveyone becomes an activist.
I just don't see how this has anything to do with radical environmental activists. It seems to me that these are reasonable scientists saying that if you empty the glass faster than it is refilled, eventually there won't be enough to drink.
The interesting spot to watch is China moving into the Russian held Mongolia and Siberia eventually as their water supply dwindles. It appears they are attempting to co-opt that territory by attrition since Chinese are moving into it.
I think that could be a major flashpoint in this century.
When the water supply gets to a crisis point, it'll all be America's fault, of course... especially if a Republican is in office.
Quote:The world of junk science just keeps getting funnier.
That's BS in this case. We have to use a well because no county water is available in the rural area where I live. The well has never gone dry on us except the year we landscaped the house with new shrubbery and had the water the new plants on a regular basis and bingo it went dry that year due to overuse.
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