A view of an author and a specialist on fresh water situation — on a global scale and within one country
“War for water” — this is how the situation is called by world Mass-Media. We really were lucky. In contrast to many Asiatic and African countries we perceive an expression “no water” with a correction “it means that soon it will be switched on”. And, for example, in Bangladesh or Lebanon there is really no water. Simply — NO...
The main states, where water crisis is displayed most actively, are as follows: India, Ethiopia, Egypt, already mentioned Bangladesh and Lebanon, Angola, Namibia, China, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Palestine... The list can be continued. Each of these regions fights for water. And each of them has its motivations.
China and India argue because of Brahmaputra river. In 2000 in Tibet landslide occurred, this is why North-Eastern India was flooded. Of course, there were many claims to Chinese, who offered to change a bed of river. Hindu got worried...
In 98 Turkey was going to build dams on Euphrates river. Damascus didn’t like this idea. Ankara was accused of conscious intervention into Syria’s water supply. Turkey didn’t remain owing and gave a plug to its offender: it shelters on its territory main Kurdish separatists. Meanwhile, global warming threatens the Earth. This means that there will become less fresh water each day. Then Euphrates will become not a reason to spit to the unwanted neighbor, and a real target...
Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Everything is rather simple here. All three regions depend on Jordan river. However, Israel controls it. Naturally, during escalation of Arabian-Israeli conflict, when the countries experience water deficiency, a state-master can simply reduce its supply to Palestine. Palestinians are indignant and answer their offenders — and here we get a new coil of the Arabian-Israeli issue...
Okavango river is a putting on element in relations with Namibia, Angola and Botswana. Namibia is a country of droughts. This is why its government decided to revive a project on canal construction from Okavango estuary into the capital Windhoek. Angola is not glad with it. Estuary draining threatens with a desert — and Kalahari will expand to several more kilometers...
There are several reasons of a water crisis. This is global warming, rapidly developing industry, agriculture, elementary unthrift in everyday life, ineffectual geography... I asked the head of the department on state control for rational water use of the Ministry of Nature Vladimir Panasenko to comment a world situation with fresh water and a situation of Belarus in comparison with other states.
— For several years the world shouts about such an event as wars for water. This especially refers to the countries of Asia and Africa. Of course, in Europe the situation is not so acute, but many states also need to import fresh water. Vladimir Aleksandrovich, to what extent is it fair to estimate it as a serious crisis?
— There is a planet Earth. There are people, who live on it. Population constantly grows. A level of human influence on the environment, and, firstly, on water, grows in geometric progression. On the whole, its quantity is constant. There are many ways of water treatment. However, we still can’t return it into its initial state, this is why we always allow our mother nature to finish the process. And, of course, there is a natural water circulation...
— Does it mean that it shall be sufficient for everybody?
— No, it doesn’t. Water storage is limited. You have correctly noted, that it firstly refers to countries with arid climate: East, Africa... If oil (at today’s rate of its usage) will be sufficient for 30–40 years, than the situation with water is not so bad.
— Does it mean that a global desert doesn’t threat the planet?
— It can occur only in arid regions. Certainly, water can be transported anywhere. This is rather extravagant and not every country can afford it...
— However, there are states with a decent economy level among arid countries. For example, Egypt...
— There is also Israel. A developed country. They still can’t deal with the fact that they are lack of water from Jordan river! Different action variants are discussed there. Up to cutting off a piece of an iceberg, to bring it to the country, to thaw it slowly and to use obtained water.
— How does Belarus feel in comparison with other states, especially with its neighbor — the European Union?
— Our country is in a more valued position. It is necessary to bear in mind that Belarus is small enough and the number of population is low: 10 million of Belarusians against 500 million of Europeans. However, if to compare us with Poland and Ukraine, our situation is more stable.
— Is it because of 13 thousand of lakes and 10 thousand of rivers in Belarus?
— No, not only. Apart from this, we learned to be more careful, than earlier, to water. The problem is preservation of that supplied resource, which we have today.
— How shall we preserve it?
— First of all, we should learn to be thrifty. I will bring forward such statistics: 10–15 years ago water flow per a person amounted to more than 300 liters. At the same time in Europe — to 160–180. However, we slowly learn to spare water: in 2005 the indicator amounted to 214 liters, in 2006 — 199, and in 2007 — 184. This is still more than, for example, in Germany.
— Attitude to water is different there. We got used to the fact that we always have it in large quantities, this is why it is cheap. And when a German realizes that he pays 9 Euro per one cubic meter of water, and he starts thinking about turning the tap tightly and to keep it open as less as possible. However, as I have already said, indicators of water flow per a person in Belarus slowly decrease. If we move further in the same rhythm, in the end of 2008 we will approach the European level to the maximum.
— Now negotiations are held that Belarus could have become a serious supplier of fresh bottled water to the world market. Is it really so? What was done in this direction and was it made on the whole?
— Belarus could have really provided the whole Europe with bottled water. It could have made it for a long period of time.
— There is water in other European states, though in not such quantity...
— This is true. This is why our possibilities to invade the world market are only theoretical now. Though demand for bottled water in Europe increases. Thus, for example, one European at an average drinks 100 liters of liquid per year.
— Do western countries need mineral water?
— No, they don’t. We got used to drink cold mineral water on a hot day. We shouldn’t do this. This is medicinal water with high content of different elements. This is why it is prohibited to drink only this water: you can spoil your health instead of correcting it. You can buy mineral water in Europe only in pharmacy, though it is sold here in each shop and the choice of it is wide.
— Vladimir Aleksandrovich, do you like old Slavic fairy tales?
— Yes, indeed.
— It means, that you believe, that water possesses great force of influence on live organisms. Do you remember about “live” and “dead” water? It can bewitch and “turn away”. Did you notice something unusual in water?
— I think that many people felt it, they didn’t simply think about it. The simplest example: not in each Minsk district it is pleasant to drink natural water from a tap. The matter is not chlorinate water, and vapidity and “dead” water.
— Vladimir Aleksandrovich, and you like water...
— Englishmen have a saying: “You will know the price of water only when the last well drains”. I want a Belarusian well was always full and we were able to dispose its potential correctly.