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Water security means food security on the World Population Day 2019

green trees in high angle photo

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

<4 mins read. Approx. 350 words

The context:

It’s World Population Day today. World population is projected to reach approx. 10 billion by 2050. While water and food may seem interdependent, many a times their issues do not overlap. Combine that with political unrest and improperly managed water resources, the situation turns quite grim from the African countries to Asia and beyond.

Some data points:

“Food production is the largest consumer of water, and also represents the largest unknown factor of future water use as the world’s population continues to balloon, and we face increasing weather-related shocks and stresses,” said Laura Schulz, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment. She spoke at “Feeding a Thirsty World: Harnessing the Connections Between Food and Water Security,” an event sponsored by the Wilson Center, Winrock International, the Sustainable Water Partnership, and USAID earlier in April 2018. Currently about 70 percent of global water goes to agriculture, a number that is projected to rise “as high as 92 percent,” said Rodney Ferguson, the President and CEO of Winrock International.

Five quick facts on population and food production (FAO)

  1. Demand for cereals, for both food and feed, is projected to reach 3B tonnes by 2050, up from 2.1B tonnes today.
  2. 90% of crop production globally (80% in developing countries) is expected to come from more production and higher yields.
  3. 300M tonnes (almost 3 folds increase from today) of cereal is expected to reach the developing countries by 2050, to make up for their 14% increase in consumption.
  4. 72% of cereal production (up from 58% today) shall come from developing countries in 2050, aiding the annual global cereal production to reach 1B tonnes.
  5. Production in developing countries will need to be almost double by 2050, and overall by 70% globally.

Reducing water usage and managing the crop productivity better:

One of the most effective ways to accomplish the above is innovation. Often times, the SDGs also do not account for the inter-relationships between water and food production.

In conclusion:

‘Self- reliance’ shall be the key word in this ever changing climate and rapidly growing world. By enabling the farming community to take care of their water and crop systems, we can work towards ensuring the self-reliance for the current and future populations.

Disclaimer: This post originally appeared on Engineering for Change’s website, under the heading, ‘Water Security will Take Precedence in Food Production as Populations Rise’. It has been slightly edited, for the readers of this blog.

In Delhi, India water (not money) determines the haves and have nots

garbage on body of water

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Pexels.com

<2 mins read. Approx. 170 words

The context:

Reuters reports that $10-$15 is the amount that wealthy residents in Delhi, India, pay for unlimited piped water each month. Many lower-income residents of the city, however, are forced to rely on trucked-in water. This water is growing increasingly expensive as drought grips the country. Some residents report paying $10 a week for their supply, and report that the water is often of poor quality.

The above article also elaborates the idea of Water Gangs and Water Wars.

I wrote on the topic of Water Mafia in context of southern India in May 2019. Please click here to read that article. To read more about all related posts, please click here.

In conclusion:

Water woes of India, from all the way to it’s capital city of Delhi all the way to Chennai in Southern India, are far from over. The article above demonstrates water crisis in the lawmakers’ and Prime Minister’s very own backyard. How the government will work towards alleviating these woes remains to be seen.

Disclaimer: This post has been inspired in part by the original article on the Reuters website. The post In Delhi, India water (not money) determines the haves and have nots appeared first on theflipsideofdevelopment.wordpress.com

Period Poverty is closer to home than we know

 

pink menstrual cup in box

Photo by Vanessa Ramirez on Pexels.com

< 4 mins read. Approx. 390 words
The context:
When you hear about the lack of menstrual hygiene knowledge, products and access you generally picture women and girls in Asian, African or LatAm countries. What if you learn that within the US it is a challenge for a number of girls in schools and colleges to access these products or buy them? The shame surrounding ‘that time of the month’ is real in the US. It effect the girls’ attendance in school, their social activities and disrupts their normal life just like in any developing countries. The desperate girls buy proxy products or do not change their pads or tampons as often as needed. They are too embarrassed to ask for the products such as tampons and sanitary napkins from their fellow girl classmates or go to the nurse’s office. In one instance in a high school in Wisconsin, a girl spent 20 minutes looking for a product when she forgot to bring her own. This is here in the US and not in some African country that incidents like these happen on a daily basis.
The challenges:
Challenges are abound for the state, city officials as well the schools and colleges in addressing these issues. School officials say that the products are expensive (in terms of providing them for free). Some said that students also take advantage by taking more products than needed for their family members or even sell them for money.
The solution:
Upon hearing this Nadya Okamoto founded Period. Her organization has donated over 75 million sanitary hygiene products in the US. States like CA, NY, TN and IL have started programs to provide these products for free in schools. In RI, the $75000 towards these services and products is a fraction of the state’s $75M budget. Principal Wobberson Torchon in RI has already seen the positive affects and strongly supports the free access to menstrual hygiene products. These efforts all aim towards achieving menstrual equity for all.
In conclusion:
In today’s day and age, where social media is an extension of self impression for most younger generation of girls and women, these efforts shall go a long way in the breaking the stigma around periods and menstrual hygiene, says Okamoto.
For more information and coverage of this story please visit PBS Newshour’s website. 
Please click here to read related stories.
Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Engineering for Change’s website under the heading Period Poverty Occurs in the United States, Too.

Solutions for Combating Desertification and Drought

drought_affected_area_in_karnataka_india_2012

©IndiaWaterPortal

<4 mins read. Approx. 385 words

2019WDCD on June 17 was celebrated under the theme of 25 years of implementation of the Convention and beyond, focusing on the path the Convention has taken, and the future the Convention could bring.
 

The context:

The world’s food production is in jeopardy because the fertile layer of soil that people depend on to plant crops is being eroded by human activities. Climate change is likely to make it worse even as demand from a grown population is soaring. Soil erosion is a natural phenomenon, however factors such as intensive agriculture, deforestation, mining and urban sprawl accelerate it and reduce crop yields by up to 50 percent, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“We’re approaching a critical point at which we need to start acting on soil erosion or we are not going to be able to feed ourselves in the future.”

One-third of our global soils are already degraded. Soil pollution can be invisible and seems far away but everyone, everywhere is affected. With a growing global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, soil pollution is a worldwide problem. FAO also said that the equivalent of a soccer pitch of soil is eroded every five seconds, and the planet is on a path that could lead to the degradation of more than 90 percent of all the Earth’s soils by 2050.

“We’re approaching a critical point at which we need to start acting on soil erosion or we are not going to be able to feed ourselves in the future,” Lindsay Stringer, professor at England’s University of Leeds, said. She spoke on the sidelines of a three-day conference on soil erosion co-organised by the FAO.

In conclusion:

Water Management and Healthy Soils is one way to address global challenges such as mitigating soil pollution and ensuring food security via smarter water management and agricultural practices. Through solutions on how to maintain healthy soil and water on small farms in Africa to earn more revenue and climate change adaptation to ten ways to put human waste to use.  Experts and practitioners share their experiences from using age-old practices of farming in dry climates in Mozambique to combat desertification.

Disclaimer:

This article originally appeared on Engineering for Change’s blog under the heading Solutions to Keep Food on the Table in a Changing Climate

Reflections on World Oceans Day 2019

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 7.34.52 PM

< 4 mins read. Approx. 350 words

World Oceans Day is today and this year’s theme is GenderandOceans. This theme brings attention to an important issue for the management of marine and coastal biodiversity – the role of women and the gender inequalities that shape our impact on the ocean.

One way that we can stop ocean pollution is by reducing single use plastic waste. NatGeo Magazine’s last year’s cover had created quite a stir on social media with its powerful message to highlight this crisis. Its simply inconceivable that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than the fish!

I have written an entire series of blog posts based on plastics’ menace in our daily life in the recent past. To read them all please click here.

Personal context:

To me it personally stirs the memory of growing up in a landlocked region in India and dreaming of visiting the ocean someday. I cannot express the joy I experienced, as a thirty year old, when I saw the Indian Ocean in Goa or the out of body experience I had, while floating and snorkeling in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, in the Negril province, of the little paradise called Jamaica.

Now that I see the world through the eyes of a toddler, the need and importance of saving our oceans is even more imperative than before. No matter how may times I visit our local aquarium, the ocean’s wonders never stop to inspire me..

In conclusion:

My sister and I used to read a lot of Archie comics growing up as a way to encourage our little brother to read more. One of the comic strips (highlighted above) that comes to mind, today is that they say a prayer* for ocean water.

I hope today that we all say a little prayer for the oceans, the waters and the species, inhabiting the fragile ecosystems, and work towards their safe future together. Tathastu (Sanskrit word for Amen).

*God’s spirit will flow like living water through anyone who truly believes in Him!

This post ‘Reflections on World Oceans Day 2019’ appeared first on theflipsideofdevelopmentdotcom.

The air we breathe on World Environment Day 2019 and everyday

Del pollution Nov.2016

Air pollution in Dehi circa Nov. 2016 ©Rohith Roy

< 3 mins read Approx. 320 words

The context:

On World Environment Day 2015 today, June 05, the call to action is to focus on air pollution.

Air pollution has been increasingly being linked to life threatening conditions like cancers, strokes and heart disease, in addition to respiratory problems such as asthma. Evidence shows that both urban and rural areas in the world are facing severe air pollution because of

  • rapidly expanding industries,
  • forest fires
  • burning of stubble by farmers in developing countries
  • the burning of fossil fuels (for cooking, lighting energy and others)
  • an exponential and unchecked increase in vehicular traffic.

Personal context:

2016 was my last year to visit India, and my most beloved city of Delhi, during Diwali with my family (see the above pic). Stubble burning by farmers in north Indian states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and U.P. combined with pollution from firecrackers of Diwali, formed such a toxic soup that my family almost chocked to death. We have vowed never to visit Delhi during the month of Diwali. Visibility was zero and the entire city came to a grinding halt. When discussed with the locals in Delhi, the response was that they were used to this air pollution and it didn’t bother them any longer!

The Indian government tried to use anti smog water cannon to combat the toxic air pollution in the nation’s capital, Delhi, though it’s only a band-aid solution and not long-term measure.

In conclusion:

At an individual level we can do a lot everyday to help combat air pollution. Simple steps such as taking the mass transit, biking, walking, planting air cleaning household plants and others could help improve our local ecosystems. These measures combined with strict implementation of environmentally friendly policies and investments in cleaner alternatives are the need of hour and will go a long way to #beatairpollution.

This post The air we breathe on World Environment Day 2019 and everyday appeared first on theflipsideofdevelopment.wordpress.com

Making water markets work for all

PHOTO-2018-08-30-08-17-06

©Ketaki Bharadwaj Jain

Approx. 6 mins read <570 words

The context:

My sister purchased her first apartment in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru in 2018. 24×7 supply of potable water was one of the key factors that her family took into account while making that decision. Over the past few years, she had seen several properties in what is called ‘the silicon city’ of India. Several apartments had no municipal water connection or water was being supplied by tankers and so on.

Present day scenario:

While India is busy resenting or rejoicing the outcomes of  its most recent general elections (depending on who you talk to) water mafias have slowly and steadily established flourishing markets from Delhi to Bangalore and Chennai. Water Mafias are operators who extract and deliver groundwater to scores of informal residential areas in Indian cities.

Personal reflections:

My sister’s experience took me right back to my days of working in one the largest urban renewal programs of Government of India in tier II and tier III cities in the Western state of Rajasthan over a decade ago. Water supply and wastewater management were at the forefront of this mission under the Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) category. Prior to that project, I had lived and worked in Vasant Kunj area of Southern Delhi. Getting daily potable water by tankers and rationing it for drinking, cooking and other purposes was the norm for us hostel dwellers.

Making water markets equitable and work for all:

Despite the externalities that informal tanker markets pose, they are sometimes the only available source of water for a number of people, who are desperate. When operated with better regulation, they can be effective in bridging the gaps in formal water supply networks. First and foremost giving the users control over operation and maintenance of private water provision of water can lead towards an equitable market for all.

Water markets lead to over exploitation of water resources, and raise a number of ethical and social questions.

  • Is water a commodity to be owned and bought and sold?
  • Shouldn’t access to clean potable water and sanitation be a human right for all?
  • Who controls access to water?
  • Are there any rules and regulations on water markets and quality they provide?

A number of international organizations are in the process of exploring the concept of water markets further. They often ask the question of whether water markets should emerge from one of their existing initiatives or should they be something brand new. There is a huge potential of studying these further via

  • surface availability,
  • through government permits,
  • how much will water markets contribute towards environmental protection,
  • payment of ecosystem services and environmental equity and justice so on.

Water Users Associations (WUAs) can form a significant part for resolving conflicts over water management, supply and rights. How WUAs will come into play, with increasing urbanization around us, when water is being channelized for non-irrigation/agricultural purposes, and how effective they will be in fulfilling this responsibility is left to be seen.

In conclusion:

Acute water scarcity has led to the rise of water markets in India. During the most recent Chennai water crisis in 2019, the villagers and farmers, around Chennai, are accusing the private water tankers of drawing irrigation water illegally from their aquifers. Informal networks of water tankers and other local means of water distribution (plastic cans, bottles, water ATMs and sachets) that cater to the household needs of people in cities and irrigation needs of farmers in villages, are growing. Better governance combined with equitable and sustainable use of water resources shall go a long way in solving these challenges.

 

 

Anupama Dawson

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